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Lovćen's century in Cetinje

"Whenever Lovćen played, the whole city would stop." A hundred years after being founded by painter Milo Milunović, Montenegro's oldest club are celebrating their centenary.

The Lovćen team before playing their first ever match in 1922
The Lovćen team before playing their first ever match in 1922 ©FK Lovćen

According to the history books, in summer 1913 famed Montenegrin painter Milo Milunović and his brother Luka returned to Cetinje, the then kingdom's capital, from studying in Italy and told friends about a ball game that was proving popular across the Adriatic.

Local cobbler Mijat Bastać promptly made the first ball – or so the story goes – and next they had to form a club. So on 20 June that year FK Lovćen were born, named after the mountain that towers above Cetinje, a symbol of Montenegrin history and freedom.

"We should be proud that here, in Cetinje, Montenegro's football story began," said writer and Lovćen board member Borislav Cimeša in heralding the team's centenary. "Also, Lovćen were one of the football pioneers in the region."

It was not until 1922 that Lovćen played their first official matches, losing 5-0 and 6-0 to HNK Hajduk Split, and the Croatian side – who turned 100 two years ago – have been invited to help mark Lovćen's jubilee by taking part in a friendly at the Obilića Poljana stadium in August.

Cetinje mayor Aleksandar Bogdanović, announcing the game, added: "We will also organise a centenary assembly. We expect numerous guests and football friends, because the history of Lovćen is a big part of Montenegrin history."

There have been ups and downs aplenty during those 100 years. Back in 1956, Lovćen lost a crucial match against FK Vardar of Skopje in the last round of qualification for the Yugoslavian First League and never got the chance to play at the top level in the former federal state.

Club great Dragan Kaludjerović said: "Football in Cetinje was not about results, it was a way of life. We didn't play for money or glory, we played because we love football. When Lovćen played, whatever the competition and opposition, the whole city would stop."

Having played out their Yugoslav days without rising higher than the second division, Lovćen won the first season of the independent Montenegrin second tier in 2006/07 – and have remained among the domestic elite ever since. However, 53 years after their Vardar reverse came another painful defeat, losing the 2009 Montenegrin Cup final to FK Petrovac with a goal two minutes from the end of extra time.

"We were so close to fulfilling an ambition of every player that ever played for Lovćen, but we failed," said Vladan Tatar, then, like now, a squad member. "We were devastated."

The club have not really recovered, fighting relegation battles in the past three campaigns, though dreams remain of silverware or a European debut. "I hope that day will come, sooner or later," added Tatar.