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Faced with the threat of a ban from international football matches, Serbia is establishing a department within the police tasked with curbing sporting violence.
|Serbian hooligans in Genoa | Photo by FoNet|
Serbia's Interior Ministry has formed a national soccer police centre tasked with countering the growing threat of fan hooliganism.
"Twenty or thirty specialised people will work in the centre," police general Mladen Kuribak told Balkan Insight. "Eighty police officers in the country have been trained for it so far," he added.
Apart from the national centre, cities will have their own departments within the city police forces specialised in dealing with and preventing violence at sporting events.
Serbia has taken action after UEFA chief Michel Platini urged Serbia to form a special department in the Interior Ministry as part of measures designed to curb soccer violence within six months. Otherwise, the country faces being banned from international competitions.
In addition to forming a special police department, the UEFA chief urged Serbian authorities to establish a national registry of known hooligans.
Kuribak said the police had started creating a database on May 5 that will contain the names of everyone involved in violating the law on preventing violence at sporting events.
"This will allow Serbian police, as our colleagues in Europe do, to monitor known hooligans ahead of crucial matches," the police general noted.
Serbian football hooligans caused their last major affray last October at a EURO 2012 qualifying game in Genoa, Italy.
Fans cut through fencing and threw flares onto the pitch, forcing the referee to cancel the game minutes after it had started. The violence continued after the fans left the stadium and 138 people were arrested.
As a result, the Serbian team was penalized with a 3-0 score and a fine of 120,000 euros.
Another of Platini's complaint during his February visit was about the slow pace of Serbian justice. Four hooligans expelled from Italy after the Genoa riots have yet to face trial in Serbia. Another four charged with serious crimes in Genoa are still in prison in Italy.
Police have closed the investigation into the events of the match in Genoa and say it is up to the prosecutor's office to make a move.
"Police submitted information about the match to the competent prosecutor. The prosecutor will react to it," Kuribak said.
The Serbian national football team have arrived in Sofia to play a friendly against Bulgaria late today, the team's first match since fan violence cancelled the Italy-Serbia Euro 2012 qualifier in October.
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