SERBIA may seem one of the more unlikely places for a rugby league revolution to be taking place, but that is exactly what has been happening in the Balkan nation in recent years.

Attention has been drawn to it ever since Red Star Belgrade were drawn against Millom in the first round of this year’s Coral Challenge Cup last month.

After what seems like an age of waiting, that tie finally takes place at Devonshire Road tomorrow (kick-off 1.30pm), but there is more to Red Star than just the all-conquering senior team which won all four domestic trophies in their homeland last year.

Along with having a strong women’s team, the club have been working closely with children in the country, not only introducing them to the sport but also to teach them life skills and break down barriers in a region where armed conflict has often reared its head.

Shaun Cumming, director of the charity Dev Inno, has been spearheading those efforts and is delighted with the strides Red Star have made.

“It’s not just for the sport, but also the future opportunities for these kids,” said Australian Cumming, who became involved with Red Star after getting to know managing director Colin Kleyweg through his work with the Rugby League Europe Federation

“There has been a lot of conflict in the Balkans in recent history, so it’s really important that if we’re putting a ball in a kid’s hand, we’re saying ‘look, there’s more than just sport’, whether it’s education, employment or enterprise.

“We’re really just trying to impart life skills which are transferable to any setting. It’s really exciting at the moment.”

Belgrade is home to one of the world’s most intense sporting rivalries too, between the Red Star and Partizan groups.

Yet several of the Red Star team come from traditionally Partizan areas of the city, and Cumming is in no doubt that is down to rugby league’s unique unifying power, which he witnessed when watching Samoa and Fiji pray together after a bruising World Cup clash.

“I don’t know how many sports have that kind of thing happen and that’s the power of this sport, and that’s how it has been in Serbia,” said Cumming

“We’ve got player at Red Star who would not traditionally have been supporters of the football team but are playing rugby league there, and I guess we’re breaking down some barriers there and showing we’re all the same.

“We’re all humans and just trying to do our best whether in sport or life, and that’s fundamental.”

Tomorrow’s tie is just as much a step into the unknown for Red Star as it is Millom, with the majority-Serbian squad eager to see how they stack up against one of this country’s most storied amateur clubs.

“It’s great the RFL permitted entry for the team and it’s such a fantastic match-up to be facing Millom,” said Cumming. “The oldest amateur team facing the newest entrant – it’s perfect.”