JAT Hijackers Want to Apologize to Players of "Buducnost"

By , 17 Sep 2019, 16:04 PM Lifestyle
JAT's Hijacker JAT's Hijacker Savo Prelević

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On September 26, 1981, one of the hijackers of JAT Boeing, Borivoje Jelic, announced that he would come to Podgorica because he wanted to talk to Petar Caco Ljumovic and other football players of “Buducnost” and apologize to them for all that they had experienced during that unpleasant event that upset the Yugoslav public.

In September, Ljumovic embarked on a championship match with Vojvodina in Novi Sad with a 20-member expedition of the club from Podgorica.

The hijacking happened late at night after the plane took off from Dubrovnik airport Cilipi, which flew from Podgorica to pick up a group of passengers.

The hijackers later said at the trial that they had chosen to board the plane at the airport in Podgorica because there was the weakest control at the time, and they intervened among the delegation of the team from Podgorica. When the plane took off from Dubrovnik Airport, hijackers with guns entered the cabin and reported to Captain Ljubomir Zekavica and the crew that it was a hijack. Then they moved all the passengers to the back of the plane.

The finale of that drama at the Larnaca airport made it clear that passengers had escaped from the plane, and then both the crew and the world media reported that the hijackers were left alone on the plane.

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Tonko Miročević and Caco Ljumović (Photo: Private archive)

Ljumovic recalls flying to Brindisi and Athens, that Israeli planes drove them out of that country's airspace, and finally the happy ending took place in Larnaca. When Captain Ljubomir Zvekavica landed the plane at the end of the runway, near the beach, there was a sick woman on a stretcher on the plane, who had a deteriorating health condition and had to be taken through the back door. While this was happening, someone burned a paper in the toilet, suddenly a fire alarm went off, and the pilot and his colleagues maximized the cooling appliances to give the impression that the fire was serious. Everyone rushed outside through the door near the wing of the plane, which was opened by Zarko Vukcevic. Only the hijackers and crew members, nine of them and Caco Ljumovic, remained on the plane because his cousin was a flight attendant and did not want to leave her on the plane. When, after the escape of the passengers, the hijackers retreated to the tail of the plane for further agreements, the crew and Ljumovic, by order of the captain of the plane, exited through two openings on the emergency plane, ran under the beak of the plane and fled toward the beach.

"It is not a trivial event when the plane is hijacked by armed men, but there was no panic, there was adrenaline. When I got off the plane with my crew, through two emergency exits, I held two stewardesses by the hand, it seemed like I was holding them and I felt nothing. We freed ourselves, so the media in Europe wrote that the Yugoslavs had abducted the kidnappers," says Ljumovic.

Ljumovic remembers that when they reached the beach, they saw specialists from Cypress with rifles. Later, the players of “Buducnost” recalled the details of the abduction, as some did not even believe that the plane had been hijacked, to those who were running down the runway in Larnaca.

Ljumovic points out that the hijackers did not harass the passengers, and that he is willing to talk to Jelic, who announced his arrival in Montenegro.

"I felt the consequences of that event a year later, when I was playing in Greece, my hair started to fall out. Then a Greek doctor told me it was stress, and it was good that it came out. When I signed a contract for the French club the following year, my hair grew back," says Ljumovic.

In the hijacked plane were also the actors Misa Janketic, Zarko Lausevic, Marko Nikolic, rock singer Biljana Petrovic, national hero Milan Sijan and several other celebrities from the public life of the time.

In the book "Hijackings and crashes of Yugoslav aircraft" by Dr. Vukosav Balevic, a complete list of passengers on the YU-AKF plane is published. On the expedition of FC Buducnost in the hijacked plane were Radovan Bujic, Zoran Nikitovic, Slavko Vlahovic, Zoran Vorotovic, Miomir Bakrac, Vojislav Vukcevic, Branislav Drobnjak, Zoran Batrovic, Zarko Vukcevic, Petar Lumovic, Mojas Radonjic, Mirko Radinovic, Dragan “Guzo” Vujovic, Dragoljub Brnovic, Vasilije Kalezic, Slavenko Kuzeljevic, coaches Djordje Gerum and Milutin Folic, dr Djuro Music and physical therapist Ljubomir Radunovic.

The plane was hijacked by Borivoje Jelic and Mirko Krizic from Bjelovar, and Milan Prpic from Rijeka. The plan for the hijacking of the plane was conceived during their imprisonment in Lepoglava, and was also assisted by Predrag Vidakovic from Rijeka.

The action was funded by Zagreb caterer Josip Valentic, and logistical support was provided by Jelena Dokmanovic from Bjelovar. It is believed that Dokmanovic just brought her weapon to the Titograd airport, and then sat quietly among the abducted passengers with whom she later escaped from the plane in Larnaca!

Ljumovic says that one of the “Buducnost” players, when everything calmed down, accidentally opened Dokmanovic's purse, which was full of large banknotes of dollars and Deutsche marks.

Jelic was sentenced to eight years in prison for kidnapping, Krizic to five, Prpic to three, Vidakovic to two, and Valentic to one and a half year. Due to lack of evidence, Jelena Dokmanovic was released, and Vukosav Balevic claims in his book that the file from the trial was burned for unknown reasons in 1992!

According to some speculations, the famous German terrorist Baader–Meinhof Gang was involved in this action.

Regret for the cup’s trophy

In the final match, Podgorica was defeated at Belgrade's "Marakana" on May 24, 1977, after extra time to Hajduk Split 2:0.

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FC “Buducnost ”at the final match of the Yugoslav Cup (Photo: Private archive)

“The whole of Montenegro traveled to Belgrade. That noise, when we came out of the hallway into the stadium, I will never forget. There were over 70,000 spectators at the stadium. It seems to me that I woke up only after the first passes and became aware that I was playing a match. We failed in overtime, Hajduk Split played in the extra time as if the game had just started," said Ljumovic.

Ljumovic says that after 90 minutes of play, in the break for extra time, his teammate Nikolica Jankovic set out to grab one of Hajduk's bottles to freshen up, and Drazen Muzinic tried to hit him with a boot. Nikolica removed his hand and Muzinic spilled the liquid. The Hajduk players must have had some vitamins in these bottles that helped them start fresh in the overtime.

Summers spent on Moraca

Ljumovic lived behind Beko, so Caco's father got an apartment near the Technical High School over Moraca. Caco recounts that as a youngster he liked to swim in Moraca, on the right side of the coast was the beach called Podgoricanka, which had steep access. Ljumovic also remembers the old bridge “Viseci most” that fell in 1964, and as boys they used to, when there was no one on the bridge, to swing it without even being aware that such a game could be dangerous.

They finally made it to the first League

Ljumovic reminds that the former Yugoslavian Football League was the third most valuable in Europe and that it was not easy to be in the First League. Buducnost participated in six qualifications and failed for various reasons, but in 1974/75, they convincingly won the first place in the Second League East and placed into the elite competition.

“I believe that the key contribution was made by Dušan Varagić, the coach, who was both an experienced strategist and a man and always had a broader picture of everything that was going on. We had a quality team, but he knew to anticipate everything that awaited us. The role of a coach can be crucial in forming a player, especially if he can motivate him to get the best out of him. I was fortunate to work with good coaches," says Ljumovic.

He regrets that no regional league can be organized in football because he believes that no one would be able to control the cheerleading groups and that the incidents would overshadow what is happening on the pitch.

Caco's grandson prefers to make a pass, rather than to score a goal

Ljumovic was a registered player of OFK Titograd for 14 years. For 12 years he played at FC Buducnost, then in Greek Drahma, and for another three years in France. His grandson plays football, he is left-handed, he does not take after his grandfather in that, but likes to pass the ball more than to score a goal and that he picked up from Caco.

He also spends a lot of time with his grandson, spending summers at Verusa.

More money, less respect

Ljumovic says transfers in modern football are much higher than when he was an active player.

We football players made good money then. We had money, but also more respect. I went on vacation in Dubrovnik, finished my vacation, I want to pay when the hotel manager says "Sir, don't rush, you'll pay when you go to play against Hajduk."

"At that time we couldn't go into the café, everyone wanted to treat us," says Ljumovic.

A penitent hijacker?

Borivoje Jelic, one of the hijackers of JAT's plane, lives in Malmö, is married to a lady from Podgorica, and last year announced that he would come to the Montenegrin capital in the fall because he wanted to apologize to the football players of "Buducnost" for all that happened during the aircraft hijacking. Budimir Bucin, a journalist in Radio Montenegro, held an interview with Jelic, in which he has announced that they had decided to hijack the plane because they were against the political system in the then SFRY. Jelic did not report to Bucin afterwards.

Text by Boban Novovic, on September 11th, 2019, read more at Vijesti

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