Serbia excluded from under-20 handball World Cup after last-minute cancellation vs Kosovo
Serbia, which was supposed to play the first international sporting encounter fixture against it’s former province, was cancelled after dozens of hardline Serbian fans waved flags and sang patriotic songsother sports Updated: Mar 24, 2018 17:38 IST
Serbia has been expelled from the women’s under-20 handball World Cup qualification tournament after it cancelled a historic match against political adversary Kosovo over security fears.
The match between Serbia and Kosovo -- which was due to be played behind closed doors -- was cancelled by the Serbian interior ministry just a few hours before it was to begin on Friday.
The decision was taken after dozens of hardline Serbian fans gathered at the venue near Belgrade, waving Serbian flags and singing patriotic songs, local media reported.
The match would have been the first international sporting encounter fixture between Serbia and its former province to be played in Serbia.
The European Handball Federation said in a statement that “under the circumstances of the match cancellation and the failure of Serbia to play the game... the Serbian national team will be excluded from further participation in the event.”
The Serbian interior ministry said late Friday it would not let matches between Kosovo and the other teams in its group, Norway and Slovakia, go ahead, state-run RTS television reported.
The matches were due to be played on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
The ministry said the decision was made to prevent “any possibility of clashes between police and citizens”.
Serbia and Kosovo fought a war in 1998-1999 war and Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade still does not recognise the move.
The match between Serbia and Kosovo was originally due to be played in the central Serbian town of Kragujevac but was moved to Kovilovo, near Belgrade.
Kosovo, although only a partially-recognised state, is nonetheless a member of many international sports federations such as FIFA and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).