Serbia's top flight may be considered by many as the natural continuation of the Yugoslav First League, same as the Russian Premier League is seen as the heir of the Soviet Top League, but in its current form it has existed for very few years, only since 2006. Regardless of the level of connection between today's league and the one that football fans used to follow throughout former Yugoslavia, the Serbian SuperLiga is what makes Serb fans' heart tick every weekend, with the huge Red Star vs Partizan Belgrade derbies as every season's cherries on top.
Organizer: Football Association of Serbia
Serbia had its first national league back in 1914, just for one season. Next time the championship was organized, was in 1920, but it lasted no more than three seasons. In 1923, the “Kingdom of Yugoslavia League” took its place, lasting under this name until 1940. Despite the war, the Serbian League, called like that again, made a comeback in 1941, and kept being organized throughout World War II.
The first season of the league that is associated in everyone's mind with former Yugoslavia, the “Yugoslav First League”, was in 1946-47, with Partizan Belgrade winning the title (even though a much shorter version of the tournament had been organized in 1945, but it had mostly symbolic character, something like a celebration of the formation of SFR Yugoslavia, with the initials standing for Socialist Federal Republic).
In the four and a half decades that the league (and the country, in that form) lasted, only seven teams won the title. Red Star claimed the trophy 19 times, Partizan another 11, leaving Croatian sides Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb far behind at seven and four titles respectively. Vojvodina, from Novi Sad, managed to win the league twice, so did Sarajevo as well, with another Bosnia and Herzegovina team, Željezničar Sarajevo, winning one title.
The 1990-91 was the last “true” Yugoslav First League season, in the sense that all Republics were represented. When the 1991-92 season started, teams from Croatia and Slovenia were absent, and more teams, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, were meant to quit the championship before its conclusion, due to the war in that former Yugoslav Republic.
In 1992 the league got transformed once again. SFR Yugoslavia had given its place to FR Yugoslavia (Federal Republic), consisting only of Serbia and Montenegro. The country changed its name in 2002 to Serbia and Montenegro, with the league changing its name accordingly. This phase lasted until 2006, when Montenegro left the federation, becoming an independent country.
Which, finally, brings us to the Serbian SuperLiga, one of the newest/oldest tournaments in Europe, remembering that 1914 season, and a few later ones in the twenties and the early forties.
One thing that never changed in Serbia's football scene, are the names of the two biggest protagonists, Red Star and Partizan, Partizan and Red Star, the two powerhouses that have won all titles since 2006-07 (mostly Partizan).
Andrija Kaluđerović is a name rather few are familiar with in Europe outside Serbia, but he is the league's top scorer, having netted 61 goals playing for OFK Beograd, Rad, Red Star, and Vojvodina.
Miroslav Vulićević is another name that doesn't ring many bells to Western Europeans, but he's played more SuperLiga games than any other player, 193, wearing the jerseys of Borac, Javor, Vojvodina, and Partizan.
Going back to former Yugoslavia times, no player has to show for better numbers than Slobodan Santrač, who, playing mostly for OFK Beograd, but also Partizan and Galenika Zemun (he spent two successful seasons at Grasshoppers as well, in Switzerland), scored 218 goals in 365 league matches.
The Serbian SuperLiga is not free of -major- problems, several clubs are struggling financially, crowd trouble is rather common, referees are often at the centre of attention for questionable decisions that go much further that the “innocent human mistake” limits, stadiums are in desperate need of modernization, the country doesn't even have a real national stadium for the national team to play in, talks have been going on for years without a real result, but no matter what, the Serbs remain passionate about football in general, and many about their football in particular, following the big western European leagues, but not neglecting their own clubs.
Teams with most titles
Statistics of all Serbian clubs that have won the top league more than once, concerning the period 2007-2020.
If all Serbian champions (from 1923) had been included, Red Star would have in total 31 titles.
By Dimitris Basias