Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

The development of sports in Novi Bečej at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century

The development of sports in Novi Bečej at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century

In the second half of the nineteenth century, it was probably a common phenomenon for sports to emerge as a necessity complementing the trends of capitalist economic activity. Riding, hunting, horse racing, and fencing were sports of previous socio-economic formations—feudalism, but they were practiced only by the economically privileged, much like in the era of slavery.

Admittedly, the oldest inhabitants of these regions engaged in hunting and fishing, but not out of sportsmanship, rather out of necessity—struggling for survival. With the emergence of the bourgeoisie, there arose a need for sports accessible to every young person and which could be practiced more frequently and in all regions. This likely gave rise to gymnastics, which did not require special playgrounds or fields, let alone expensive equipment for individuals, nor much time for preparations.

Gymnastic societies, or "physical exercise" as they were initially called, sprouted in all places. Initially, there were rhythmic exercises, followed by apparatus, then fencing, and so on, with new forms of physical sports activities being added. With the invention of the bicycle, that sport became interesting even in larger cities, leading to the emergence of cycling clubs. It wasn't long before football was introduced from England as a modern ball game. It quickly carved out a place for itself in every community, so much so that a good portion of these gymnastic clubs evolved into football clubs, with gymnastics remaining only in the club's name. This was the case with MTK and Ferencváros in Budapest, Sparta and Slavia in Prague, Serbian Sword and Sokol in Belgrade, and so forth.

In Novi Bečej, among the earliest sports were undoubtedly hunting, riding, and horse racing, as Novi Bečej had feudal lords for whom this was the favorite form of entertainment. Even in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Novi Bečej, landowner Rohonci bred racing horses on his estate on Biserno Island. With them, he achieved results of the highest European caliber. With his horses, he won races not only within the borders of Austria-Hungary but also in other European countries.

Similarly to Rohonci, another feudal lord of Novi Bečej—Shoimoshi—bred thoroughbred horses on his estate, which were used for trotting.

The fact that a hussar troop was stationed in Novi Bečej in the second half of the nineteenth century contributed to holding "magnificent equestrian games with horse races" in Novi Bečej.

With the emergence of gymnastics and the founding of Sokol in Prague, the Sokol movement spread among Slavic peoples, so it didn't take long for Sokol branches to be established in Novi Bečej. In the early years of the twentieth century, a Sokol gymnastics society was founded in Novi Bečej, and a few years later in Vranjevo. Initially, the youth practiced sports within Sokol more out of national motives, but over time, the Sokol movement encompassed broad layers of youth, especially among students and artisans. However, despite its rhythmic exercises and apparatus routines, Sokol couldn't inspire a competitive spirit, or motivate for competitions that would excite not only the participants but also the spectators.

Football very quickly became the most popular sport throughout Europe, displacing many others. It conquered even the most remote corners of the world at the same speed, so much so that today it is the most widespread sport. It became the game of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

In the multinational Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, this national diversity contributed to football taking deep roots very quickly and experiencing such development as few countries did at the end of the last century. This continued until the outbreak of the First World War. Every nation sought to express itself through football and healthy youth. For some nations, under the political conditions of the time, this may have been the only form of legal demonstration and expression available.

Perhaps, thanks to the multi-nationality of the former monarchy, football in those countries gained such momentum that the entire period between the two world wars (in Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia) was the strongest in Europe, excluding, of course, England as the cradle of football, which did not participate in European and world competitions. It is true that in the 1930s, Italy emerged as a football powerhouse, but this was largely achieved through the "import" of professionals from Argentina, Uruguay, and other countries in South America.

Thanks to circumstances such as one Novi Bečej resident—Vladislav Laci Kostović—being in London for studies in the 1880s and bringing back a football, football as a game emerged in Novi Bečej already in the last decade of the nineteenth century. There are no written records of this, nor of the years when it actually started being played, but based on the accounts of the oldest Novi Bečej residents, documents from the Historical Archive in Zrenjanin, and data published about the emergence of football in other cities, it can be assumed that Novi Bečej was among the few cities on the periphery of Austria-Hungary where football appeared very early.

According to the gathered statements of older Novi Bečej residents, football emerged in Novi Bečej in the 1890s, played by several youths from the immediate surroundings of the Kostović family. Football began to spread among the youth of Novi Bečej about a decade later.

During this time, football emerged as a youth game also in Veliki Bečkerek, leading to the first inter-city football matches in Torontál County between the students of Turskobečejski and Velikobečkerek schools on August 1, 1909, in Novi (Turski) Bečej. The match ended with the victory of the Velikobečkerek students with a score of 2:0. A cabaret dance was held in honor of the guests from Veliki Bečkerek.

A rematch between the teams of Velikobečkerek and Turskobečejski students was played on August 14, 1909, under the patronage of the chief county clerk Dr. Erne Vincehidi, who had brought the first football to Veliki Bečkerek. The Velikobečkerek students triumphed again, defeating the Novi Bečej students with a score of 4:0, followed by a very successful celebration.

It didn't take long from these first matches to the formation of the first football club. In many cases, these are equated, but in the case of Novi Bečej, this cannot be done. According to some data, Novi Bečej students played a match against the local football club in Stari Bečej as early as 1911, but at that time, there was no organized club in Novi Bečej; the team was assembled on an ad-hoc basis.

According to the gathered statements of the oldest Novi Bečej residents and organizers of the first football club, the founding assembly could have been held in the summer of 1912. At that time, the first football club in Novi Bečej was founded under the name: Törökbecsei sport egylet, which translates to Turskobečejsko sportsko udruženje. This TSE football club existed until the end of 1921. A draw of 1:1 was recorded in a match in Velika Kikinda on July 23, 1921, against the local VAC team.

After the annexation of Banat and other parts of Vojvodina to Yugoslavia after the First World War, the club changed its name and attempts were made to change both the management structure and player composition.

After the First World War, Jews in Novi Bečej, as in other cities of Vojvodina, were mostly organizers and main players of football. They used the transition to the new state as the most painless way for football. Instead of remaining TSE, the football club joined the Sokol society, at that time the only sports organization of Serbs in Novi Bečej. The management remained largely the same from among the Jews, and the player lineup was reinforced by bringing in primarily Jewish players from Novi Sad, Bačko Gradište, Petrovo Selo, and Stari Bečej. The new club was named Soko. Strengthened, Soko achieved commendable results in competitions with clubs from neighboring cities.

By dampening economic activity and weakening the economic power of the patrons of Građanski, the quality of the football team declines among the Jewish community in Novi Bečej. Players who came from elsewhere leave for Novi Sad or Veliki Bečkerek, thus Građanski's strength mainly relies on players from Novi Bečej.

While Građanski was thriving, following its separation from the Sokol society, some former Sokol players among the Serbs remained within the Sokol society and continued playing football under the name Soko. Therefore, during that time, Novi Bečej essentially had two clubs: Građanski and Soko. Soko consisted mainly of students from Novi Bečej who studied outside the town, so their activities were limited to the summer holidays. Consequently, the club only played matches in July and August.

The declining results, coupled with the departure of Građanski's best players, led to a decrease in public interest in matches. With the disappearance of external support, football in Novi Bečej struggled to survive. There were no conditions for the existence of two clubs, and thus, in the autumn of 1926, the football club Građanski ceased to exist. Soko continued to exist for another year, but since its activities were limited to the summer months, an initiative was launched in 1927 to establish a new football club. That year, Football Club Jedinstvo was founded. In such conditions, Soko could not survive even as a "seasonal" club, as Jedinstvo recruited the few players from Soko who were not students but worked as officials or craftsmen and played for the team during the summer.

Jedinstvo immediately became a member of the football association upon its establishment and was placed to compete in the Northern group of the Velikobečkerek district of the Belgrade sub-association, alongside clubs from Velika Kikinda and Delija from Mokrin. In this competition, among four clubs from Kikinda and Delija, Jedinstvo from Novi Bečej usually finished second to last, and in one year, it even finished last. Thus, it struggled until 1934 when its activity ceased, leaving Novi Bečej without a football club in the winter of 1934/35.

Young people didn't accept this situation and founded youth clubs Zvezda and Banat. The persistence of children bore fruit, leading to the formation of a decent football team in Novi Bečej, which played good football from 1939 until the outbreak of World War II. It surpassed the football played in Novi Bečej from 1927 to 1938. This children's and later adult youth club of Novi Bečej was called Vranjevački Sport Klub Zvezda because its founders were boys from Vranjevo. In the last years before World War II, Zvezda successfully competed with clubs from northern Banat, except the strongest ones from Kikinda and Veliki Bečkerek. In friendly matches in Novi Bečej, they defeated Sloga from Kikinda 3:2, Građanski from Stari Bečej 3:1, and Slavija from Stari Bečej 3:0. However, this success was still far from the achievements and prestige that Novi Bečej football had in the early years after World War I. Ultimately, football, like all other superstructures, shared the fate of the economic situation in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo from after World War I until the 1970s.

In the summer of 1940, just before the start of World War II, the workers' football club Zanatlija was founded. Its purpose was to gather workers and provide conditions for them to engage in sports since Zvezda was primarily a club for students. Workers, who didn't have enough time for regular training, could only participate from Sunday to Sunday and were thus unable to join Zvezda. Zanatlija played two or three matches before the outbreak of World War II when all its activities ceased.

The youth of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo found special enjoyment in swimming, for which the Tisa River provided good conditions. Across from the present-day football stadium, on the Bačka side, there was a beautiful beach. In summer, when the water level of the Tisa dropped, the sandy bank extended to a quarter of the riverbed. Hundreds of children from Novi Bečej enjoyed this spot with their parents, while adults and proficient swimmers had the shore from the Monastery to the ruins of the old fortress on the Tisa at their disposal.

On Sundays, hundreds of bathers gathered on the beach, raising the question of how the people crossed to the other side of the Tisa when at that time, Novi Bečej with Vranjevo had barely four or five boats.

Besides all the natural amenities for swimming and sunbathing, Novi Bečej had a beautiful and large floating bath on the Tisa River from the late nineteenth century until the Second World War. Such a bath, in terms of size and appearance, was unmatched by Stari Bečej or Veliki Bečkerek. It was one of the most beautiful on the Tisa, perhaps even throughout Hungary. Szeged had several smaller floating baths, but the one in Novi Bečej was truly grand, with two flowing pools: one for men, one for women, and a smaller one for children.

In contrast to today's swimwear that allows every part of the body to be exposed to the sun, swimwear at that time was one-piece with shorts almost down to the knees. Even men's swimwear had upper parts with straps.

Despite all the conditions for water sports development, Novi Bečej couldn't boast any significant achievements in that regard. From the statements of the oldest residents of Novi Bečej, it's learned that in 1912 there existed a rowing club with competitors in pairs, fours, and eights. The results of that club are unknown, but it's known that its founder was Tivadar Senci, the then-director of the Novi Bečej Water Cooperative, and the club existed until the beginning of the First World War, until the summer of 1914.

Swimming in the Tisa River and swimming were favorite pastimes of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo residents. It can be said that from the beginning of this century until today, there hasn't been a Hungarian resident who didn't know how to swim. After the First World War, this extended to the Serbian population, although Serbs lagged behind in this regard. The rural population, which lived in areas further from the Tisa or on farms, didn't have the opportunity to learn to swim, so this skill remained limited among them until the Second World War.

Organized swimming as a sport emerged only in 1934 when the Jedinstvo water polo club was founded in the summer, with its founder being a craftsman-radio technician named Kelemen. He came from Senta that year and opened a radio repair workshop in Novi Bečej, and since he was one of the best water polo players in Senta, immediately upon his arrival, an initiative was launched to establish a water polo club. His initiative yielded results, and that year Novi Bečej organized very successful swimming and water polo competitions. The competition included swimmers and water polo players from Vojvodina in Veliki Bečkerek, SAK from Senta, and Jedinstvo from Novi Bečej. An improvised swimming pool was set up behind the floating bath with the help of two barges. The winner was Vojvodina from Veliki Bečkerek, which played a significant role in swimming throughout Yugoslavia at the time. The swimmers and water polo players from Senta were second, and as expected, Jedinstvo had a participant role and only in some swimming disciplines, particularly in long-distance ones, won second or third place. However, this attempt was short-lived, and until 1939, Novi Bečej didn't have swimming as an organized sport.

After five years, in the summer of 1939, Branislav Kiselički, Stevan Kiurski, and several other students founded a swimming section within the Zvezda football club. In fact, it was a separate club, but Zvezda's rules, already approved by the authorities, were used, allowing unhindered operation. This section managed to gather a larger number of young enthusiasts and start systematic and persistent training on the free part of the Tisa River's flow along the bank near the Gradište grove.

Immediately after the establishment of the football club Jedinstvo in 1927, there was an initiative to establish a women's handball team. Handball, in fact, was similar to modern-day handball with slightly different rules. That year, the first exhibition handball match in Novi Bečej was played between Vojvodina from Veliki Bečkerek and Kosovo from Velika Kikinda.

The newly established handball section of Jedinstvo consisted of Terez Kovač, Etel and Vilma Zupčić, Etel Kenig, Eržebet and Mariška Havedić, and Eržebet Farkaš. The results achieved by this team were modest, but matches were regularly held over the summer for two to three years.

Novi Bečej also had a tennis club. It was a sport of the bourgeois elite of Novi Bečej, as it required significant funds for maintaining the court and expensive equipment. The tennis court, like the football field, was located in the Gradište grove. The only preserved result of the Novi Bečej Tennis Club was from a match against Velika Kikinda. In Kikinda, on December 21, 1932, the Kikinda tennis team played against the Novi Bečej tennis team (in the mentioned monograph, Bečej, as Stari Bečej, was incorrectly entered). In that match, Otto Knizl, a pharmacist from Novi Bečej, defeated Bogdan, the Kikinda champion, who was considered the best tennis player in Banat at the time, with 6:4 and 6:3. The other Novi Bečej player, Vajs Ernö, Novi Bečej tennis player Magda Kanic, as well as the doubles, lost, and the match ended with Kikinda's victory at 4:1.

In the 1930s, a considerable number of young people played volleyball. Both male and female youth engaged in this sport within the Sokol societies of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo. Besides competing against each other, Novi Bečej and Vranjevo also participated in competitions in Veliki Bečkerek as part of the Sokol gatherings.

Bowling had been a popular pastime for young people for many years, even at the end of the nineteenth century. However, this pastime was associated with taverns. Bowling alleys were usually located in the courtyards of taverns. The tavern keepers charged players, and the entertainment mainly involved buying drinks for the winner. It wasn't until the 1930s, in the Civilian Reading Room in Hungary, on the main street, in the building where today the Victory Shoe Company is located, that a parquet bowling alley was built, meeting competitive demands in bowling. In that reading room, the First Novi Bečej Bowling Club was founded, which competed with bowlers from Veliki Bečkerek, Velika Kikinda, Stari Bečej, and perhaps other cities and villages of Banat and Bačka.

Fishing had always been a popular pastime for younger residents of Novi Bečej, but at that time, it didn't have the character of a sport, so there wasn't any sports passion involved. There were few adults who engaged in fishing. Fishing was then a profession for several professional fishermen from Novi Bečej.

Chess was popular among some Hungarian youth. Although there wasn't a club, and engagement in this sport.

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