At the beginning of April, legendary football manager Radomir Antic sadly lost his long battle with illness at the age of 71. His untimely passing prompted an outpouring of grief from across the footballing world with fans and players sharing their memories of the Serbian coach. The former defender was born in Žitište and enjoyed a long and distinguished playing career before hanging up his boots in 1984.
English Championship club Luton Town were one of the first teams to pay tribute to Antic via their social media channels. He was described as a ‘true Hatters hero’ and will be fondly remembered by supporters for scoring one of the most important goals in the club’s history. His strike helped preserve Luton’s Division One status at the expense of Manchester City in 1983 and prompted mass celebrations in the home dugout, with David Pleat’s famous Maine Road jig going down in sporting history. It also consigned the hosts to Division Two football the following season and left many home fans in floods of tears.
85′ GOOOAAALLL FOR THE HATTERS! It’s Raddy Antic who sends the ball back past City keeper Alex Williams after the hosts fail to deal with Brian Stein’s cross from the right. Could this become the most famous goal in Luton Town history?
MC 0-1 LT#COYH pic.twitter.com/IT2H998eDM
— @LutonTown (@LutonTown) April 7, 2020
His playing career also featured successful stints at Real Zaragoza and Partizan Belgrade. He also made the transition to management in the Serbian capital, working with Partizan head coach Nenad Bjekovic for a number of years. He returned to Spain and spent two years at Zaragoza before being headhunted by Real Madrid. It was in the Spanish capital that he was able to oversee his greatest managerial achievement, as he helped rivals Atleti clinch an unlikely double in the mid-90s. Los Rojiblancos won both the La Liga title and the Copa Del Rey in a single season and were able to create history on the banks of the Manzanares. Although he was far less effective during his second spell at the club, he still managed to guide them back to the Copa Del Rey final four years later.
1996 – Today 24 years ago Atlético de Madrid won the Copa del Rey of their first “doblete” (LaLiga & Copa in a single season) ever. Antic#AtleticoMadrid pic.twitter.com/qM7jwjVnbo
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 10, 2020
He remains the only coach to have been in charge of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico with all three of his former employers paying heartfelt tributes to their former coach. The latter put out a statement which said that he will ‘forever live in our hearts’ whilst current La Liga players such as Fernando Torres and Sergio Ramos also took to social media to offer their condolences.
Although he only managed just a single international appearance during his playing career, Antic was officially unveiled as the new Serbian head coach in August 2008. He guided his home nation to the 2010 World Cup, and although he was responsible for overseeing a memorable victory against Germany, he was unable to negotiate his way through to the knock-out stage.
Despite the disappointing outcome, it was Serbia’s joint-best performance at the tournament since 1998, although with the current crop of players, fans are feeling optimistic ahead of upcoming events such as Euro 2021 and the 2022 World Cup. They’ve been priced up as 75/1 outsiders for the latter in today’s odds on football with Brazil and France amongst the favourites to achieve success in Qatar. Current head coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic also has some tricky UEFA Nations League games to negotiate later this year with games against Russia and Turkey scheduled for September.
Antic will be fondly remembered by fans of many clubs, although he holds a special place in the hearts of both Luton Town and Atletico Madrid supporters. The Serbian boss is a hugely respected and revered figure in the world of football and the impact that he had on the game cannot be underestimated.