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Passing of Branko Luzanin of Yugoslavia's 'Barefoot Boys' leaves volleyball poorer

Branko Luzanin (1936-2020)

The volleyball world is poorer after the passing away, last week, of legendary Yugoslavia international Branko Luzanin, at the age of 85, in his hometown of Kikinda, north of Belgrade.

A multiple sporting talent, he was a top skier and football player - apparently 'the best penalty-taker in Europe'.

But Luzanin shone for his volleyball. Part of the 'Barefoot Boys', which legendary coach Dragiskav Sirotanovic 'threw in the fire' while they were still juniors, he picked up four championship titles and won three national cups with "Jugoslavija" Volleyball Club.

As the story goes, Yugoslavia's star players preferred to play barefoot and Zoran Petrovic turned up to compete at the 1962 World Championship in Moscow wearing no shoes. When the organisers and the FIVB offered to buy him sports shoes, he replied "Why? I don't need shoes. I've left mine on the bench. It's much easier for me to play like this."

Zoran Petrovic (first from the right), barefoot. Branko Luzanin is second from left.

Luzanin was capped 50 teams with the national team of Yugoslavia, competing in the starting six of the side at the European and World Championships.

He also played for Red Star Belgrade, Pristina and Kikinda Volleyball Club.

His father, Ognjen, died when German fighters shot down his airplane over Yugoslavia in 1941 and he was raised by his mother Rajka, and supported in everything by his wife Boba (also a volleyball player).

OK Jugoslavija in 1960: Standing (from left) - Petar Stanisic, Branko Luzanin, Hamid Gacanin, Dragan Rajacic, Stevan Palisaski and Zoran Petrovic; sitting: Branko Draganic, Dragutin Uzelac, Branislav Gvozdenovic and Srpko Petrovic.

He joined them last week following the departures of his teammates Zoran Pertovic, Dragan Rajacic, Stevan Palisaski, the Uzelac brothers, Ljubo Ilic, Srpko Petrovic, Predrag Sretenovic and Aleksandar Petrovic.

He is survived by his teammates of the 1960s, Hamid Gacanin, Branko Draganic, Srdjan Jercic, Milovan Simic and captain Petar Stanisic.

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