Soccer / legend
FC Partizan legend Saša Ilić played his last game in front home fans
There are special legendary players, players who spent most of or even entire career in one club, players respected even by fans of arch rivals. Lets name few: Maldini, Totti, Del Pierro, Gerrard, Giggs etc... Those players became symbol of club they played for. Today one of them played his last game in front of home fans. He is not so famous and not so good like players above, but still legend. He made his last game in front of home fans today. His name is Saša Ilić and he is legend of FC Partizan Belgrade. 42 years old midfielder and play maker made 840 games for FC Partizan scoring 240 goals for his club. He is first on eternal list of players when we talk about number of played games. For Serbian national squad he played 41 games scoring 5 goals. In his career he played for Celta, Salzburg and Galatasaray. He is playing professional football from 1996 and won 11 Champion titles and 6 cups with Partizan. Notable moments I can remember now are games he played against Real Madrid and Newcastle United. 2003 year Real Madrid with Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo (from Brazil) came in Belgrade in Champions League game. Before the game he said "I just pray that they don't start to play with heels". Game ended 0:0 and Ilic missed chance of the game around 80th minute as he failed to score at empty net after Casilles deflected the ball. It' around 2nd minute on this video. Soon after that game that season Partizan played against Red Star and lose 3:0 and after the game skipper Ilic said infamous statemant that Partizan lost because "grass on stadium was to high" and Partizan could not play great passing game as usuall. LoL He apologized soon after. After many years when asked he said I need something to say after that defeat and did not know what. LoL. Before and after he did not say anything ugly about arch rival Red Star. Other memorable game were games against Sir Bobby Robson's Newcastle in Champions League qualification same year. In first leg he was in a lot of chances, he was constant danger for Newcastle but could not score and game ended 0:1 for English side. When journalist from Serbia asked Sir Bobby Robson which player from Partizan he thinks is the most dangerous, England legend apologized for not knowing how to pronounce his last name and said "Player with number 22 without any doubt". That was Sasa Ilic. I remember how frustrated I was after that game, because I felt we were better side and lost the game. However on second leg Sasa Ilic passed to Ivica Iliev in counter attack and Partizan won 1:0 and went to Champions League on penalties. Engand legend Alan Shearer was one of few who missed in penalty shot out. Sir Bobby Robson said that he never saw Shearer so nervous. I also remember his goal against Red Star in cup final 2001 when Partizan won 1:0 on Red Star's stadium and won the cup. Today was very emotional day for every Partizan Belgrade fan because there is only one Sasa Ilic. Players like him does not born every day. Yesterday evening he got cake with club logo, his last name, number on shirt and number of games played and goals scored and touchy message from hard core fans that he will stay in their hearts forever. During his rich career he experienced carrying on shoulders of teammates and supporters. He had multiple songs dedicated to him and one of them is saying "I would like you to play little more becasue there is only one Sasa and I care about him" After ovations on today heavy rain game against Proleter he made final statement saying "I saw little boys who are catching the ball crying and I know that someone of them will be like me or better." He said also "Thanks to all my coaches from youth until now, to all my teammates with who I share good and not so good times, to all fans who supported me all these years and gave me strength, to my parents who taught me to love Partizan and of course to my wife and kids because without them I could not last for so long". Even arch rival Red Star fans had message for him which was "In every cockle there is wheat good skipper of the worst team. Cheers" There is respect for real legends even in arch rival fans. I remember ovation for Gerrard at Stamford Bridge near the end of his career. I can't say Ilic was some world class player, he was just very good and very skillful on the ball, very good play maker and one of the best players in Partizan that I saw. He could send the ball between opposition lines to create goal chance. As coach of Partizan Savo Milosevic said "Players like him do not born every day". We will all badly miss him in following years. Thank you Saša for all you have done for club you are symbol of Partizan Belgrade now!