Canadian international goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who plays his club soccer in Serbia, says he plans to sue a rival team official for cyberbullying.
The Red Star Belgrade 'keeper points the finger at Partizan vice-president Vladimir Vuletic after a social media post showing a doctored photo of Borjan and his three-year-old son Filip.
"You can't do stuff like that. He went too far ... He crossed a big line," said the 33-year-old Borjan, a well-known sports figure in Serbia.
The doctored photo, which came after the rival teams' most recent meeting on Oct. 18, replaced the face of Borjan's son with that of the Serbian national team coach. The connection there is Borjan's wife Snezana.
"My wife before she married me worked for Partizan. And that coach was working there," Borjan explained. "A lot of people were talking here that my wife has been with him before, in a relationship."
Borjan, while calling the post "hateful," has heard such talk before. And he is no stranger to rival fans taunting him or his wife. But he was quick to take action after his son was involved.
"I am going to sue him for this," he said. "I've got the support of (my) club, I've got the support from my national team, which is something unbelievable — that people like that stand up for you in these hard moments.
"I've got my lawyer talking to a lot of people, because he (Vuletic) is a (university) law professor ... I want him banned from football."
The original photo, which was posted on Borjan's Instagram feed, showed a smiling Borjan and his son in matching camo track suits.
The feud has drawn plenty of attention from Serbian media.
Borjan says he has had run-ins with the Partizan official before. But things have escalated this time with Borjan saying his family has received death threats.
Red Star and Partizan are fierce rivals. Borjan was in goal when the two teams tied 1-1 at Partizan in the 163rd edition of the derby.
Going into Sunday play, Red Star (10-0-1) topped the Serbian standings. Partizan (7-2-2) was third.
"Partizan and Red Star when they play, there's too much heat here," Borjan said from Belgrade. "It's unbelievable how much heat."
But he said even some Partizan fans have shown support for him.
"We need people to love each other, not to hate each other," said Borjan.
Born in Knin in the former Yugoslavia, Borjan was eight when his family moved to Belgrade. He was 13 when the family moved to Winnipeg before heading east to Hamilton a year later,
He has played 149 games for Red Star, which currently sits atop the Serbian standings and is involved in Europa League play, and has won 49 caps for Canada. He has 21 clean sheets wearing Canadian colours.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press