Torino coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has reminded his players that Sunday’s derby with Juventus isn’t “war”, a week after ugly on-field clashes marred Roma’s 2-0 away win over Lazio.
Former Serbia international Mihajlovic, who as a player once traded racist insults with Patrick Vieira when the Frenchman played at Arsenal, has softened since his days as a freekick-taking, midfield enforcer at Lazio.
Now coach of Torino following a mitigated spell on the touchlines at AC Milan, the Serbian has high hopes of leading the ‘Granata’ to just their second derby win over five-time consecutive league champions Juventus in 21 years on Sunday.
In 2015 Giam Piero Ventura, now coach of Italy, was at the helm as Torino beat Juventus for the first time since 1995.
But Mihajlovic, who recently revealed that his family home in Serbia was destroyed by his best friend, a Croatian, during war in the Balkans, said he doesn’t expect to see a repeat of the ugly scenes which marred last week’s capital derby.
“The only thing I ask is for a great derby full of intensity and professionalism,” said Mihajlovic.
“The derby isn’t war. It’s a game of football, but with intensity, effort and emotion. It makes you cry and get angry, but it’s still a game.”
Considered one of the toughest midfielders of his generation, Mihajlovic admitted in a recent interview that war in the ex-Yugoslavia had a direct effect on his playing style.
“I always needed an ‘enemy’ to really get me into a match,” Mihajlovic, who recalled one episode with former Germany international Oliver Bierhoff, told Corriere dello Sport.
“While the bombing was going on in Belgrade, I was getting ready to say anything and everything to Oliver Bierhoff.
“But he was smart. Before the game he came up to me and said he was very sorry for everything that was happening in my country, because my people didn’t deserve it.
“How could I get angry with him after that? It was very disappointing.”
Mihajlovic also revealed his family home was destroyed by his best friend at the time.
“It was destroyed by my best friend, who was Croatian,” added Mihajlovic.
“We were like brothers. I couldn’t believe he’d done this … but then in 1999 or 2000 we were playing in Croatia and one day he came to the hotel.
“He told me he was forced to do it because everyone knew we were friends. He said: ‘I tried to tell your parents they had to leave. I had to knock down the house, because otherwise they would’ve killed me’.”
Last week’s capital derby was won 2-0 by Roma, but was marred by events on and off the pitch that have left Lazio midfielder Senad Lulic at risk of a heavy ban.
Lulic apologised for apparently racist remarks aimed at Roma defender Antonio Rudiger, who is black, when he compared the Germany international to a streetseller hawking “socks and belts”.
Lulic, a Bosnian, is under investigation by Serie A league officials.
Earlier this week Kevin Strootman saw a two-game ban for squishing water on Danilo Cataldi, leading the Lazio man to retaliate and earn a red card from the touchlines, cancelled on appeal.