As Serbia prepare to face long-time rivals Russia and also Spain, in European Championship B (fixtures doubling as 2021 RLWC qualifiers), they expect local interest in the sport to peak.
With the recent live-streaming of the U19 European Championships, held in Belgrade, and greater awareness of their top sides appearing in the Balkan Super League as well as the domestic competition, the profile of rugby league has risen appreciably.
“We have received some much-needed exposure,” said Slobodan Manak, secretary general of SRL. “Rugby League players are not yet overnight superstars here, but media coverage is better and the overall support is there – we are becoming a favourite sport!
“Our juniors taking fifth place at the Euros definitely gave us a public push. For the first time we had our games nationally televised, so the general public not just a sports audience, could see how much pride our boys played with. The buzz and feedback was big, and we want to continue that through European Championship B.
“We are expecting huge games against Spain and Russia,” he added, “which should bring in big crowds, both in Belgrade and when we go to Moscow. Getting to the next step in qualification is the goal, but the pure excitement of the competition is what will continue to make us popular.
“Not so long ago, we were watching a World Cup and dreaming of attending one but now, England 2021 doesn’t seem that far away, both for the federation and the public.”
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP B FIXTURES
|6 Oct 2018 – 15:00||Spain||Russia||Quatre Carreres, Valencia|
|13 Oct 2018 – 15:00||Russia||Serbia||Fily Stadium, Moscow|
|20 Oct 2018 – 14:00||Serbia||Spain||Makis Stadium, Belgrade|