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Platini threatens Serbia with ban due to hooligans

sports Updated: Feb 25, 2011 02:38 IST
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UEFA chief Michel Platini warned Belgrade on Thursday its national squad and teams could be banned from international competitions if Serbia does not root out violence among football supporters.

At the meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadic, Platini said that should "violent and criminal behaviour by hooligans continue, Serbian teams and national squad will be excluded from all European competitions," said a statement from the presidency.

A Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy in Genoa last October was abandoned after just six minutes following crowd trouble, instigated by hardcore Serbian hooligans, who threw flares onto the pitch.

The hooligans then clashed with local police in a series of incidents that ended with 16 injured on both sides. Several Serbs were sentenced to prison terms, while others were expelled from Italy and banned from entering the country for five years.

"We are aware of the problems we have with hooligans in Serbia and we are ready for a final clash against them," Tadic said in a statement.

"We will work together with UEFA in order for the ugly incidents from Genoa not to happen ever again. This was a shame for our country," he added.

A rise of violence among hardcore football fans presents a serious challenge to Belgrade, harming its image and attempts to join the European Union.

In September 2009, a French football fan was brutally beaten here ahead of his team's match with Partizan Belgrade. He later died from his injuries, while the 12 hooligans received sentences for first degree murder of up to 35 years in prison in January.

The incident came as the first Gay Pride was to be held in Serbia, which was later cancelled due to fears of violence by hardcore football fans, mostly supporters of ultranationalist parties.

But a year later, hundreds of them clashed with police securing the 2010 Gay pride parade in Belgrade, in a series of violent attacks that left several dozen injured on both sides.

In a bid to root out hooliganism among football fans, the authorities amended the country's Criminal Law allowing a 30-day detention for suspects investigated for violent acts punishable with up to five years in prison.

Later on Thursday, Platini visited Croatia and told its President Ivo Josipovic that European football's governing body has given a year-long deadline to the former Yugoslav republic to "ensure that matchs be held without any violence by football supporters."

"If this is not ensured, Croatia's Football Federation is threatened to be excluded from UEFA," the statement from Josipovic's office quoted Platini as saying.

Josipovic said the Croatian government has prepared a "new law that should contribute to solving the problem" of violence among football supporters, the statement said.

He added he would demand that all state institutions ensure measures be taken "in order to put an end to violence at Croatia's stadiums."

Croatian hardcore football fans often clash with the police, especially when the main rival teams, Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split, play the national league matches.