Serbia may face serious problems with joining the European Union. The football team of the country can be excluded from Euro 2012 qualifying tournament. All this can happen because of the violence, which Serbian football fans showed in Italy. Expert Timur Blokhin told Pravda.Ru that the connection between the violence and politics was obvious. Serious measures, if taken against Serbia, would be a demonstration of double standards, though.
Football became the key political event of the week in Europe. The match between the teams of Serbia and Italy was set on October 12 in Genoa. Both Italian and Serbian football fans are know for their aggressive behavior. Three days before the game, Serbia unexpectedly lost to Estonia. Fans showered their players with criticism, although it was impossible to presume that their revenge would materialize in such brutal actions.
Clashes between the Serbian fans and the police were reported prior to the match in Genoa. The fans attempted to approach the bus of the Serbian team to lynch their players: they even prepared a makeshift casket for goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.
As soon as the players appeared on the field, the Serbian fans started throwing smoke flares at them. Foreign objects could be seen flying towards the Italian fans too.
The stadium turned into a battlefield. The players spent only six minutes on the field, and the referee decided to send them all back to their locker rooms. The match never started, and the police eventually took the situation under control. Seventeen Serbian fans were jailed.
Investigation showed that most of the aggressive fans were members of the Serbian nationalist movement known as 1389. The movement unites fans from different clubs, propagates the return of Kosovo and the expulsion of Muslims from Serbia. They also strongly disagreed with President Boris Tadic's idea to make their country a EU member.
By a twist of fate, it was Tadic who had to take the racket for his radical political adversaries. The Serbian president called Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and apologized.
Football officials currently decide which sanctions can be applied to the Serbian team. On October 28, UEFA will gather for a special meeting to discuss the consequences of the football thuggery in Italy. It is not ruled out that the Serbian team will be withdrawn from the qualifying tournament for Euro 2012. The team can also be punished with an automatic defeat of 0:3.
Any of these two penalties would be a demonstration of double standards. One may recollect the experience of Euro 2004 qualifying matches, between Georgia and Russia. As soon as the game started, Georgian fans began to shower the Russian players with political accusations shouting that Russia was occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Georgian fans burnt the Russian flag and started throwing foreign objects at the Russians. The referee ordered to stop the game of football parody after the first half. Afterwards, when the bus of the Russian team was departing to the airport, the Georgians were throwing stones at it.
Strangely enough, UEFA showed no reaction. They simply decided to replay the match; the Georgian team was not even given an automatic defeat. Screaming political slogans at UEFA tribunes is considered a felony. However, the Georgian fans just got away with it.
There is every reason to believe that they will make a different decision for the Serbian team. Serbia was withdrawn from football tournaments in the beginning of the 1990s after the West found the country guilty of the horrendous war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Most likely, it will not be just a matter of football sanctions. Italy's deputy foreign minister Alfredo Mantica stated on October 14 that the violence in Genoa could complicate the talks about Serbia's EU membership. Until recently, football violence has not been a reason to deny EU membership to Poland, Hungary and Croatia.
Timur Blokhin, an expert for former Yugoslavia, said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that there was obviously no excuse to the behavior of the Serbian fans.
"How on earth could they make a casket for their goalie? That violence only plays into the hands of Serbia's enemies - Western journalists. They marvel the mess now to substantiate the image of the Serbs as bloody barbarians who are responsible for the genocide of "poor" Kosovars and Bosnian Muslims.
"At the same time, it is easy to find an explanation to the behavior of the Serbian fans. Many of them feel humiliated because of the events in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are overemotional about it. As a rule, violence is committed by those people who are unhappy with their lives. It is hard to imagine Swede fans stoning the bus of their national team.
"Connecting football violence with Serbia's EU membership is strange, to say the least. Croatia and Poland should never become EU members if we proceed from that. England should be shown the door in this case. If Serbia is excluded from qualifying games it will be a blatant incident. The Georgians were not excluded from anywhere eight years ago, but this is pure politics. The things, which friends of the West can do freely, are not allowed to be done by those who have been labeled as hellspawn for 20 years.
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