As they prepare to face long-time rivals Russia together with Spain in European Championship B – the fixtures doubling as 2021 Rugby League World Cup qualifiers – Serbia expect 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 domestic competition, the profile of rugby league has risen appreciably.
“We have got some much-needed exposure,” said secretary general of SRL, Slobodan Manak. “Rugby league players aren’t yet superstars overnight, 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 it through European Championship B.”
Manak added: “We are expecting huge games against Spain and Russia that will bring 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 and dreaming of attending a World Cup but now England 2021 doesn’t see that far, 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