For those of you unfamiliar with Balkan symbolism, there is an image/emblem that is dominant in Serbian history that features a cross surrounded by four C-shaped firesteels (Serbian: "ocila", "оцила"), which form an acronym of four Cyrillic letters for "S" (written like Latin "C").
According to legends and historians (and of course Wikipedia) it was coined in the 12th century by St. Sava, a Serbian prince and Orthodox monk, and the first Metropolitan of Žiča and Archbishop of Serbs of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was at this time that Serbs, who lacked a national church, were under pressure by Rome to convert from Orthodoxy to Catholicism. According to the story St. Sava called for the creation of an independent church in Serbia that would remain Orthodox, and uttered the "ocila" phrase to urge the Serbian people to declare national autonomy and resist domination by the Roman Catholic Church.
With that in mind I read with interest that Manchester United captain, Serb Nemanja Vidic, is using a similar rallying cry to inspire his teammates to glory against the mighty Barcelona.
Said Vidic: "The players have to have courage and belief. We have to show commitment to believe in what we are doing in the game. We have to think about how to stop Barcelona but also how to score ourselves. It is one game where anything can happen and concentration is crucial.
"Concentration is vital in every game but in a Champions League final against Barcelona this is even more important. It is the biggest game of the season and it is important we also stay calm."
Wise words from a man who has become a cult figure with the Old Trafford faithful. Should he lift the Champions League trophy on the 29th May then his name will surely be spoken in the same revered tones as Eric, Keane, Robson, Charlton, and Best.
Despite running away with the English Premier League and decimating an overmatched Schalke in the semi-finals, the final is by no means a lock. In fact, United go in as underdogs. Barcelona are possibly the greatest passing team in the history of the game, with Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Villa et al. playing the game like a pimpled teen plays football on PS3 with the setting on the easiest level. They destroyed United in the final two years ago, and will be looking to repeat that performance. They are downright scary.
Even scarier is the fact that the ‘Four C’s’ has never really meant that much to the Serbs other than being a great catch-cry. So I’m hoping that Vidic’s ‘Four C’s’ are a little more successful in inspiring United to glory.
UP: Sir Alex Ferguson. His reign has brought the club 12 English league titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 9 Charity Shields, 2 European Champions Leagues, 1 European Cup Winners Cup, 1 European Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 FIFA Club World Championship. Amazing. This will be the third Champions League final in the past four seasons. Just phenomenal
UP: Football Fans: This is the sort of behaviour that sets football fans apart from all other sports in the world. Manchester United fans attempting to ensure maximum enjoyment is wrung out of the club's record-breaking 19th title took their cause to Anfield, unveiling a banner inside the ground before the Reds' game against Spurs. United clinched their landmark 19th title on Saturday, finally eclipsing Liverpool's total of 18, and the club's supporters went to great lengths to ensure those at Anfield were fully aware of that fact. As Liverpool fans began their customary chorus of You'll Never Walk Alone, United fans, organised by the Red Issue fanzine, unveiled a banner emblazoned with the words "MUFC 19 TIMES" in the Anfield Road End of the ground. Those responsible had a getaway car waiting outside the ground, plus fellow conspirators in the adjoining stand in order to get photographic evidence.
UP: Novak Djokovic. His unbeaten run has continued into the French Open. Should he lift the trophy at Roland Garros in a fortnight’s time, he will have set a new mark for games undefeated, and will more than likely take the number one ranking from Rafa Nadal. What’s so incredible about Nole’s form, and separates him from McEnroe, Lendl, Federer, Villas etc. during their unbeaten stretches, is that Nole is doing it as the world number two. He’s beaten the number one player in the world in four finals this year!!! All those other greats were number one when they went undefeated.
UP: Parramatta Eels. 40 -6 over the Cronulla Sharks. I know it’s just one win, and I know that the Sharks aren’t the cream of the crop, but a win’s a win.
DOWN: Mark Webber. Let’s just call his challenge for the 2011 F1 title done and dusted. Nice guy. Good driver. But he missed his shot last year and I’m predicting he gets pushed out of Red Bull for the 2012 season
UP: Robert Prosinecki. Check out this image. I still don’t know why Zvezda picked him to coach the team…but it’s nice to see he’s doing his best to fit in.