Legendary Partizan centre-back Branko Rasovic turns 79 today.
He was part of best ever Partizan centre-back trio Becejac-Rasovic-Vasovic, backline that played 1966 European Cup final. Arguably, they were the best ever trio at the back Yugoslav football ever had.
They were famous for their stability and firmness, admired around former Yugoslavia and praised around Europe. Becejac, Rasovic and Vasovic were pillars of one mighty team that was so close to win European Cup trophy.
Youngest of the three was Branko Rasovic, 79 years of age today.
Partizan fans of the modern era know him as father of Vuk Rasovic, former Partizan skipper and coach who won his last title with the club back in 2013. Older Partizan aficionados remember Branko Rasovic as “The Rock” and “Giant from Old Trafford”, the latter nickname given to him after his away performance against Manchester United in a reverse leg of 1966 EC semi. Man Utd did win with a single goal scored by legendary Nobby Stiles on 72, but Podgorica-born Rasovic dominated the field with his strength and authority prompting English media to call him Giant from Old Trafford.
Man U fans of the era first spotted Rasovic during Partizan first leg 2-0 win. Former great star of European football Denis Law and Rasovic had a bit of a brawl and Scottish forward slapped Partizan centre-back, trying to impose fear and respect on his marker. But, he got it all wrong.
Branko responded in the same fashion and Denis Law, 1964 Golden Ball winner, didn`t expect such reaction. Instead, Law laughed it off and both continued playing as if nothing had happened.
Initally, as a Buducnost Podgorica youth, Rasovic played as a forward but he was soon moved to the centre-back position. He played five season at Partizan, scoring two goals over 210 appearances. He would surely score more, but football philosophy half a century ago didn`t include all towering defenders going forward for selected set-pieces. At the time, only Velibor Vasovic was allowed to move forward, therefore 6 ft 2 in Rasovic could never fulfill his attacking potential.
Rasovic won one championship title with Partizan before moving to Borussia Dortmund in 1969 achieving more praise for his football game over the five-year career at North-Rhine Westphalia club.
He also made 10 apps for Yugoslav national team and rejoined Partizan upon hanging his boots, working at Partizan Youth Academy until his full retirement. Rasovic lives in Belgrade, watches Partizan games and visits club`s offices on a regular basis. After all, this is his second home.
Happy birthday, Gentle Giant!!