Matt Butler: ‘Crazy’ tiger who tried to help a new country roar – and was sacked

View from the sofa: Storyville, BBC4

Selfishness plays a part in elite sport. The nature of it dictates that participants spend a large amount of their time doing things only for themselves. Those long hours practising free-kicks aren’t for anyone else’s benefit outside the realms of the team in question.

And Lizzy Yarnold, the skeleton gold medallist, admitted last week that she had missed her sister’s last five birthdays in her quest for Olympic glory.

Among all this self-centredness, altruism can emerge of course. Footballers promote charities. Yarnold went on record to state her wishes to inspire the next generation.

You could always go a little more extreme, like Samantha Gash, the Australian ultra runner, who wanted more purpose to her training than just running unfathomable distances.

She and Mimi Anderson, a multiple world record-holding British ultra runner, decided to do some good with their chosen sport. In September they will run around 50 miles a day for over a month along the Freedom Trail across South Africa to raise money for a business to provide sanitary products for South African girls. They will certainly have an impact far beyond the bubble of sport.

The well-travelled Serbian football coach Zoran Djordjevic no doubt had few high- falutin’ ideas of changing others’ lives for the better when he took the job of managing the national team of the brand-new country of South Sudan.

His and the team’s story was told in the latest edition of Storyville, the excellent BBC documentary series. At the beginning he made his motivations clear: “I have always been called a tiger. A tiger eats, he wins. I have been champion many times; I like to win, to motivate people to win.”

He came across as intermittently arrogant, obscene and plain eccentric – as shown when he bought a sheep as a mascot, naming it Champion. The players were as bemused as the poor animal, but one thought it a great addition: “If the team run out of food, we can kill it and eat it.”

Under the abrasive personality of the shaven-headed coach, his motivation became more focused on helping the young nation have a football team they could be proud of. Financial gain went out the window very early on – in a tragi-comic exchange with Chabur Alei, the South Sudan Football Association president, Djordjevic shouted at an assistant for speaking while he was on the phone, before breaking down in tears at the fact he was trying “to help this young country” but hadn’t been paid, while he saw corrupt officials remaining on the take.

The journey came to an end when Djordjevic took the team to a tournament against the wishes of Chabur, who refused to fund the trip. The team exited without scoring a single goal. But the players still believed in him and one, Thomas Jacob, was inspired to take up coaching himself.

Djordjevic was declared by Chabur to be “crazy, mentally ill” just before he was sacked. The coach had done little to dispel the diagnosis. But there was no doubt he had given his players something to strive for.

And as he walked off down the dusty road, he vowed the tiger would roar again “somewhere”. And as if to prove he wasn’t in it for himself, a caption at the end told us he was considering a coaching job in Syria.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York