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News 07 Oct 16

Kosovo-Croatia Match Marred by Anti-Serbian Chants

Croatian and Kosovo fans have been condemned for chanting murderous slogans together against Serbs at a World Cup qualifying match in Albania.

Fatjona Mejdini, Sven Milekic
BIRN
Tirana, Zagreb
Albanian police checking Kosovo and Croatia football fans on Thursday in Shkodra. Photo: LSA/Gent Shkullaku 

The football match between Kosovo and Croatia played on Thursday evening at the Loro Borici stadium in Shkodra, Albania was marred by racial chants against Serbs.

In its second qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup since the country was accepted into UEFA and FIFA earlier this year, Kosovo’s football team lost 0:6 to Croatia.

This did not prevent fans from both countries from chanting in unison against Serbs. Media footage of the match showed the Kosovo and Croatian fans outside and inside the stadium chanting: "Kill the Serbs."

Albanian media reported that some Croatian fans also shouted: “We are Ustasa”, referring to the Croatian WWII Fascist movement that killed thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-Fascists. Some shouted also the Ustasa slogan "Za dom spremni’ ["Ready for the Homeland"].

FIFA has fined the Croatian team several times in the past years over fans chanting Fascist slogans during games played by the national team.

A columnist for the Dialogplus portal, Vjosa Musliu, wrote in a comment article entitled "The Match of Shame" that Kosovo risks misusing FIFA's decision to let the country form its own national team.

"These chauvinist shows are strongly to be condemned not only in the ethical and moral sense. The fans of both teams could be disciplined by the sport's high authorities... The calls for killing, in fact, just kill the Kosovo aspiration of playing football," Musliu wrote.

Other commentators took to social media to point out that Kosovo should raise its game in terms of football performance rather than indulge in patriotic chauvinism.

...

Fans of the two teams gathered in Shkodra in the early hours of Thursday and spent the day celebrating together.

Albanian police reported that about around 16,000 people crossed the border with Kosovo during the day, while 1,200 police were deployed in Shkodra.

Balkan football fans have a long history of using matches to air political and ethnic disputes between their countries.

The first match between Albania and Serbia in decades, played in October 2014, was abandoned in the 41st minute after a clash between the teams, the result of a drone carrying a "Greater Albania" flag being flown over the pitch.

Serbian fans booed the Albanian national anthem and chanted racist slogans, such as “Kill the Albanians".

The match later became the object of a UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body ruling.

Croatian fans have also caused numerous problems in the past. At the match with Israel in the eastern town of Osijek, Croatian supporters also chanted "Za dom spremni".

FIFA then punished the Croatian football association, CFF, with a fine of 137,000 euros and an order to play two games before empty stands.

A swastika was displayed at the stadium in the city of Split in June 2015, for the game with Italy. For this, the Croatian team was deducted one point, while the CFF had to pay 100,000 euros and play another two matches without fans.

In a game against Norway in March 2015 ‘Za dom spremni’ could again be heard and FIFA penalised the CFF with a 55,000 euros fine and ordered one game to be played without fans.

Croatian football player Joe Simunic led some 20,000 fans in chanting “Za dom spremni" immediately after a game against Iceland in Zagreb in November 2013. FIFA gave Simunic a ten-game suspension, preventing him from playing in what would have been his last World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

At a match against Serbia in March 2013, Croatian fans chanted “Kill the Serb”, for which the CFF received a fine of 42,000 euros.

Croatian fans displayed another swastika flag in the stands at a European qualifier against Georgia in Split in June 2011. They also created a swastika with their bodies in the stands of a stadium in Livorno in Italy in August 2006.

Hardore supporters groups either boycott matches of the team or seek ways to get the CFF disciplined and the team punished by points deductions, or even disqualified, which would, according to their plans, force the CFF leadership to step down. Nevertheless, some of the incidents were motivated by extremist sentiments shared by some of the fans.

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