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Saskatoon’s Serbian community mourns loss of FIBA basketball tournament

  • The Serbian community in Saskatoon took advantage of the 3x3 World Tour to cheer on Serbian teams. Now that the tournament isn't returning to the city they say they will miss the connection to Serbia.
WATCH: The Serbian community has used the FIBA 3X3 basketball tournament as a way to come together.

The end of the FIBA 3×3 basketball tournament in Saskatoon means members of the city’s Serbian community are losing a chance to engage with their heritage and each other.

The event, part of the FIBA 3×3 World Tour, brought teams from around the world to downtown Saskatoon over the weekend. For the past three years, the Serbian community has used the tournament as a way to come together.

“It definitely makes us feel more Serbian because [of] the energy that it brings to our community,” said Mihailo Milovanovic, a fan.

READ MORE: Saskatoon hosting FIBA 3×3 World Tour stop in 2019

According to the 2016 census, Saskatoon has fewer than 200 Serbian-speaking residents.

Chris Macas, another fan, said the small group uses events to celebrate their heritage.

“It’s important to our community to have [the players] here and it’s great. It’s a rare opportunity to have some players from Serbia come to Saskatoon,” he told Global News.

Macas says he was born in Serbia and left 20 years ago. He was beating a drum to cheer on the three Serbian teams at this year’s tournament — enthusiasm that is appreciated by the players.

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READ MORE: FIBA 3×3 World Tour returns to Saskatoon

“It’s very important for us because [the fans] give us the energy,” said player Nebojsa Boskovic.
“We from Serbia like the [cheering] because it gives us five to 10 per cent more [energy] to be better on the court.”

The Serbian supporters and teams have a bond other fan bases would probably envy.

“The players come one day early and they come to our houses and they stay with us,” Macas said.

“We actually went out with Team Zemun last night.”

The tournament is not currently scheduled to return to Saskatoon.

Macas still has hope that he’ll get to cheer again.

“We’re really sad that this is going to be the last year. We hope this event comes back and it’s a great event for the city,” he said.

Representatives from both FIBA and Tourism Saskatchewan told Global News that they want the event to return.

“We need the break [but] we’ll retool and refocus on what is the next great event,” Todd Brandy of Tourism Saskatchewan said at a press conference on Friday.

“We would love to come back,” FIBA event manager Maximillan Glas said on Friday.