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12 Sep, 2023 21:37

Kosovo-Romania game interrupted by ‘Serbia’ chants (VIDEO)

Players objected to a banner declaring ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ during a UEFA qualifier in Bucharest
Kosovo-Romania game interrupted by ‘Serbia’ chants (VIDEO)

A group qualifier for the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship in Bucharest between Romania and Kosovo was delayed for 30 minutes on Tuesday evening, after the visiting players objected to a banner that said “Kosovo is Serbia” and chants of “Serbia” by sections of the home fans.

Romania is one of the five EU member states that do not recognize Kosovo, a breakaway province of Serbia whose ethnic Albanian provisional government declared independence in 2008. European football governing body UEFA admitted Kosovo as a member in 2016, however.

As the match in opened, Romanian ‘ultras’ chanted “Serbia! Serbia!” as the anthem of Kosovo played. Organizers had to turn up the sound to cover the chants, according to Romanian journalist Emanuel Rosu. 

Several Romanian social media users had previously posted videos of Kosovo fans booing the Romanian anthem during the June match in Pristina.

Video and photos from the National Arena in Bucharest showed Romanian fans with banners declaring ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ in Serbian and ‘Bessarabia is Romania’ in Romanian. Bessarabia is one of the names for present-day Moldova.

“Please stop chanting our neighbor’s name,” the organizers repeatedly reminded the crowd, letting them know the game might be interrupted because “Revisionism is not tolerated by UEFA.” 

Kosovo players eventually walked off the pitch in protest, and the game was paused for more than 30 minutes before resuming. The final score ended 2:0 to Romania.

When some Kosovo players approached the Romanian ultras stand again, the announcers urged the fans: “Don’t accept any provocation. Don’t sing what you sang earlier. Don’t show banners.”

Ethnic Albanian social media users accused Romanian fans of “racist” chants, demanding that the game be called off and Kosovo awarded a victory by default. The Kosovo FA claimed the banner was “hateful.” Kosovo is in the qualifier group with Andorra, Belarus, Israel, Romania, and Switzerland. It has not won any of its games so far.

During the Albania-Serbia UEFA qualifier in 2014, an Albanian fan flew a drone into the stadium in Belgrade. When a Serbian player tore off the nationalist banner hung from the drone, a fight broke out on the pitch and the game was called off. UEFA initially awarded Serbia the default victory but later docked it three points. Albania then ‘won’ the three points in arbitration.

NATO troops took control of the province in June 1999, after a 78-day air war against Serbia without UN authorization. The UN Security Council Resolution 1244 recognizes Kosovo as sovereign Serbian territory. Russia, China, India and about half the UN members have joined Serbia in not recognizing the government in Pristina.