The Politics of Sport

Foto: Radio-Televizija Vojvodine

The issue of sports in Kosovo once again became the subject of an exchange of accusations between Belgrade and Pristina after several Serbian clubs in Kosovo allegedly received a letter from the Kosovo Police banning them all sports activities and prosecuting the organizers.

The long-simmering problem of Serbian athletes in Kosovo has reached a new crescendo.

The Kosovo authorities have been banning Serbian league matches in Kosovo for years now, claiming that they are illegal activities and demand that Serbian clubs register in the Kosovo system and compete in Kosovo leagues. Their main argument for pursuing this police is their membership in UEFA and FIFA.

For this reason, and for a number of years now, local Serbian clubs have re-located to nearby cities in central Serbia in order to hold matches within the Serbian league.

In a letter from that is allegedly from the Director of the police, Gazmend Hoxha, that KoSSev has seen, he demanded that regional police directorates ban all sports activities of clubs that are not registered in Kosovo’s sports federations.

At the same time, it was demanded that measures be taken against the organizers of such events, as well as a ban on the entry of sports clubs from central Serbia that do not have an appropriate invitation or permit.

The Kosovo government and the police have not yet confirmed or denied the authenticity of this letter. No answer to our inquiry, sent on Saturday, has been received.

On the other hand, Igor Uljarević, the president of the Football Association of Kosovo and Metohija, which operates under the Serbian system, confirmed for KoSSev on Saturday that this document was delivered to district football associations and certain clubs south of the Ibar.

At the same time, he confirmed that they contacted the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) regarding these newly-arisen circumstances, stating that they hope for a quick reaction from the FSS and state authorities.

Two days later, this same association confirmed they addressed the issue to UEFA.

In the letter, marked as ‘urgent’, which was addressed to the president and general secretary of UEFA, they said that Prishtina is applying „illegal and inhumane pressure on Serbian football clubs“, while „intimidating“ athletes and workers, threatening them with arrest and prison sentences if they continue with training and competitions.

They asked UEFA to use their authority to „stop the described practice“ and in order to „avoid the escalation of possible violence that may be provoked and caused by the illegal moves of the temporry institutions in Pristina.“

Today, Kosovo Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports reacted to the letter from Serbia.

„In addition to distorting reality, offensive language is also used in the letter of the Serbian Football Federation addressed to the UEFA president,“ said Hajrulla Çeku, while posting a photo of the letter from the Serbian football association.

At the same time, Ceku accuses Serbia of violating the basic agreement that was agreed in Brussels, and then confirmed in Ohrid, along with the determination of the implementation plan.

„Serbia continues with harmful actions towards Kosovo, with a complete violation of good faith as the basis of the last agreement in the dialogue process,“ Ceku claims.

He emphasizes that this agreement, among other things, foresees „equal relations and good neighborliness.“

„The parties also agreed not to represent each other internationally,“ he said.

Ceku recalled that the Sports Federation of Kosovo has been calling Serbian clubs in Kosovo for a long time to officially register, that is, as he says, „become part of the legitimate sports system“ in Kosovo.

On the other hand, he also claimed that the Sports Federations of Serbia have been organizing parallel and, as he judges, „illegal“ activities within the framework of their official championships in Kosovo for years.

„Kosovo is a country of sports, but we will not tolerate illegal actions that violate our constitutional and legal order, as well as European and world sports cards.“

He also reminds that the Football Association of Kosovo is a full member of UEFA and FIFA.

„We invite all sports clubs to become part of the legitimate sports system of Kosovo,“ said Ceku.

On the other hand, the Minister of Sports of Serbia, Zoran Gajić, assessed that it is not only discrimination against Serbian athletes in Kosovo, but it is another form pressure on the Serbian people.

He claims that the police report is political pressure and has nothing to do with sports.

In last week’s statement for Tanjug, he said that the Serbian Ministry of Sports will continue to help Serbian athletes in Kosovo.

There are dozens of active clubs in predominantly Serb areas in Kosovo, and all of them are part of the Serbian sports scene. Among them there are first league players, such as the handball club from Zubin Potok and volleyball players in Mitrovica. Also, a significant number of individual athletes are champions of Serbia, Europe and the world – mostly in martial arts.

A large number of clubs existed since before the war, but more were founded in the ensuing years.

Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.