Serbia punished for World Cup flag
The Serbian football authorities have been fined by FIFA after a flag featuring Kosovo was displayed in the team’s dressing room ahead of their opening match at the World Cup in Qatar.
The banner showed an outline of Kosovo which was covered by the colors of the Serbian flag, and was accompanied by the message “no surrender.”
It was hung in the locker room before Serbia took on Brazil at Lusail Stadium on November 24.
Football officials in Kosovo complained to FIFA, accusing the Serbian team of an “aggressive act contrary to the values that football transmits.”
FIFA has now handed down a fine of 20,000 Swiss francs ($21,300) to the Football Association of Serbia for the “political” gesture, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, the Croatian football authorities were hit with a financial penalty of 50,000 Swiss francs ($53,000), after the team’s fans abused Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan – who is of Serbian descent – during their World Cup match on November 27.
After the scandal surrounding the flag emerged, Serbia faced a feisty final Group G game against Switzerland last week.
The pair had also met at the Russia World Cup four years ago, when goal celebrations by Swiss pair Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka – who are both ethnic Albanian – inflamed tensions.
In Qatar, Xhaka was again involved in scandal as he was accused of provoking the Serbian bench with a crude gesture.
After the match, which the Swiss won 3-2 to seal a place in the knockout stages, Xhaka was seen wearing the shirt of Swiss teammate Ardon Jashari – who shares a surname with the late former leader of theKosovo Liberation Army, Adem Jashari.
Xhaka denied that he had attempted to provoke the Serbian players and fans, and escaped punishment from FIFA. The Swiss went on to exit the World Cup after a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Portugal on Tuesday.
Kosovo is a province of Serbia which was occupied by NATO after its 1999 bombing campaign. Its ethnic Albanian provisional government declared independence with US backing in 2008. Kosovo also became a FIFA member in 2016.
While the EU has urged Belgrade to recognize Kosovo’s independence, Serbia has vehemently declined to do so. Russia is among the countries which do not recognize the region as a separate state.