'We have a tendency to win big and lose big'

When Paul Lalovich moved to Dubai from Toronto in 2007, he knew that if he wanted to connect with other Serb expatriates he would have to head online.

When Paul Lalovich moved to Dubai from Toronto in 2007, he knew that if he wanted to connect with other Serb expatriates he would have to head online. Although in places like Toronto and Chicago there are large numbers of Serbs living in "fairly tight-knit" groups, he said that sense of community was not immediately present in the Emirates, where an estimated 5,000 Serbs live. The 36-year-old has done his bit to tighten their ties by founding the Facebook group Serbs in Dubai.

But at the same time, he says the need for a bond is not as great as it used to be. When he left his home for Canada at age 19 in the early 1990s, war was erupting in the former Yugoslavia. Others who left during that period did so mostly out of necessity, Mr Lalovich said, and "craved" their lost sense of community. But Serbs in the UAE may not need their community to lean on. "You come here as an accomplished professional. You don't come here to build your career," Mr Lalovich explained. "Here it is a very temporary mindset because everyone comes for a year or two, so they have a different approach.

Regardless, Mr Lalovich, who works in human resources for du, is certain that Serbs across the Emirates will gather in small groups to rally around the national team. "Serbia have a tendency to win big and lose big as well," Mr Lalovich said. "We could play fairly well against Germany and then lose to a team that is pretty low in the Fifa standards. Definitely the Germans are going to be the biggest challenge, but you cannot relax and underestimate anybody."

Serbia's last World Cup appearance was brief, as they lost all three of their group-stage matches by a combined score of 10-2. Ranked 15th in the world by Fifa, football's governing body, the team are considered the direct descendant of the former Yugoslavia squad and are credited with 10 World Cup appearances. In 2006, players took the pitch in Germany having qualified as Serbia and Montenegro, even though days earlier Montenegro had ratified a referendum that made it an independent state.

But this time around, says Slobodan Eric, 33, a food and beverage manager for Cinnamon City Cafe in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, the Serbian side is strong and united. "Before we have individuals but now we are strong as a team," he said. "I hope they will make a good result. I think the second round is possible." mchung@thenational.ae

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