Bora “Milu” Milutinovic (third from left of the back row) and the Suramerica team players. Photo: Courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia
The Suramerica team won the fifth diplomatic soccer tournament - the Milu Cup - as they thrashed the defending champion Milu Stars 8-3 in the final on October 19 in Beijing.
The Milu Cup, named after Bora Milutinovic, who led the beleaguered Chinese national soccer team into the World Cup for the first and only time in 2002, was founded by the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in 2009.
Suramerica dominated the final, while a comeback from Milu Stars' Yan Yunfeng leveled the score at 3-3 in the first half. But with shines from Juan Manuel, who turned out to be the best player of the tournament, the South Americans' 5-0 run in the second half put them within reach of their second title win.
However, the big loss did not embarrass Milutinovic, or simply Milu as he is better known in China. He said, "The most important thing for me is not who wins but the atmosphere that everyone enjoys soccer today."
"I'm very happy to see so many people come to play as well as the spectators' coming. What's more, kids came to play," he noted with a smile on his face.
A total of 17 teams participated in this year's tournament.
Aleksandar Stanojević, head coach of Chinese Super League's Beijing Guo'an, also attended the event.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina team took third place by defeating the General Administration of Sports of China team 3-2 on a penalty shootout after the match locked at 3-3.
Milu admitted that referees at the tournament need improvement. They raised controversy during the matches, which resulted in several participants complaining.
"I hope everything can be better next year … I hope we can share such an atmosphere again," he said.
He also expressed his appreciation to the hosts, the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia and Shandong Hi-Speed Group.
"It's really nice to have such an event, to have different people to communicate with each other on soccer," he said.