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Euro 2024: Albania's Daku banned over nationalist chants

June 23, 2024

UEFA has sanctioned Albanian striker Mirlind Daku with two-game ban for leading nationalist chants about Serbia and North Macedonia. Serbia had threatened to quit Euro 2024 if no punishment was handed out.

Mirlind Daku of Albania shouts slogans after the UEFA Euro 2024 group stage match between Croatia and Albania.
The Albanian team's forward, Daku, has apologized for leading fans' chants against Serbia and North MacedoniaImage: Sergei Mikhailichenko/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/picture alliance

Albanian forward Mirlind Daku has been handed a two-match ban for the national team, UEFA officials said Sunday. 

The 26-year-old footballer previously sparked controversy by leading nationalist chants about Serbia and North Macedonia following their Euro 2024 group game against Croatia.

Daku took the megaphone and joined in on the chants after the game in Hamburg.

UEFA said the chants brought soccer "into disrepute." The Kosovo-born player, who switched from playing for Kosovo to Albania last year, later apologized on social media. 

"Like any footballer, in those moments the emotions are on another level, which can only be understood on the field," he wrote. "It is difficult to describe the feeling of playing for this national team, for these wonderful fans who give us unlimited love."

Albania face Spain on Monday in their last game of this stage. Having picked up one point following their draw against Croatia, the team can still qualify for the knockout stage, but face a tough test against table leaders Spain.

Daku will sit out the Monday's game and the next international match Albania play after that.

Group B with Spain, Croatia, Italy and Albania is displayed on a screen after the final draw for the UEFA Euro 2024
Albania could still qualify for the round of 16, though its chances are slimImage: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

What did UEFA decide?

UEFA said its disciplinary judges found Daku guilty of "failing to comply with the general principles of conduct, for violating the basic rules of decent conduct, for using sports events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature and for bringing the sport of football into disrepute."

Albania's football federation was also fined a total of €47,500 (approximately $50,000) over Daku's conduct as well as other incidents during the same game. UEFA accused Albanian fans of chanting an anti-Serb slogan.

One of the slogans the fans reportedly chanted was "Kill, kill the Serb," reflecting long-running tensions between Albanians and Serbs over the Kosovo war in the 1990s.

Albanian fans' behavior also prompted charges of lighting fireworks, pitch invasion and "transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event."

Croatia's football federation also received a €28,000 fine over lighting and throwing fireworks during the same game.

UEFA added that an investigation into potential racist and/or discriminatory conduct by fans at the match was ongoing.

Albania fans display a huge banner inside the stadium before the match
Albania's soccer federation was also fined over the conduct of its fans during the game against CroatiaImage: Carmen Jaspersen/REUTERS

Balkans tensions overshadow Euro 2024

This year's Euro tournament sees the greatest-ever representation from countries in the Balkans region. Three national teams, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, are from former Yugoslavia, in addition to Albania.

Serbia had threatened to exit the tournament following the incident at the Croatia-Albania game unless UEFA punished those involved.

Tensions between the neighbors, fueled by historic conflicts which culminated in the 1990s wars, as well as more recent diplomatic feuds, have traveled to the pitch.

Both Serbia and Albania were fined €10,000 each by UEFA at the start of the tournament over fans "transmitting a provocative message" after their opening games.

rmt/dj (AP, dpa, Reuters)