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World Cup: FIFA investigating Serbia FA for nationalist flag

November 26, 2022

FIFA has launched an investigation into a nationalistic flag in the Serbia dressing room during the game against Brazil. The Serbian players were reportedly unaware of the flag, which depicted Kosovo as part of Serbia.

Serbia's players greet their fans at the end of the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Serbia
While the Serbian players were in action against Brazil, a controversial nationalistic flag was reportedly hung in their dressing room.Image: Aijaz Rahi/AP/picture alliance

The Serbian football association (FSS) is under investigation by FIFA after photographs emerged of a Serbian nationalistic flag hanging in the team's dressing room in Qatar.

The flag showed a map of Serbia including the Republic of Kosovo in the Serbian national colors, emblazoned with the slogan: Nema predaje – "no surrender."

Kosovo, a former province of Yugoslavia with an Albanian majority, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized by the vast majority of United Nations member states. Belgrade, however, considers it a Serbian province.

The football federation of Kosovo (FFK) became a member of FIFA in 2016 and said in a tweet: "The Kosovan football federation strongly condemns Serbia's aggressive actions against the Republic of Kosovo at the 2022 World Cup. The World Cup is an event of joy and unity, it should send messages of hope and peace, not messages of hate. We call on FIFA to take measures against such actions."

Werder Bremen's Veljkovic unaware

The photograph was reportedly taken before Serbia's defeat to Brazil on Thursday. it shows the flag hanging in front of the lockers and shirts of defender Milos Veljkovic and midfielder Andrija Zivkovic.

Veljkovic plays for Bundesliga club Werder Bremen, a spokesperson for whom told local portal Deichstube that Veljkovic only found out about the photo after the match, and that the flag was not hanging there when the players returned to the dressing room.

Hajrulla Ceku, Kosovo's Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, also tweeted: "Disgraceful images from Serbia locker room, displaying hateful, xenophobic and genocidal messages towards Kosovo, while exploiting FIFA World Cup platform. We expect concrete actions from FIFA considering that the Kosovo Football Federation is a full FIFA and UEFA member."

Volatile game against Switzerland

The Serbian football association is yet to comment on the matter, which is likely to remain in the headlines give that Serbia's final group game on Friday is against Switzerland, whose team contains several players of Kosovan heritage, including captain Granit Xhaka and vice-captain Xherdan Shaqiri.

In June 2018, at the last World Cup in Russia, both scored as Switzerland came from behind to beat Serbia 2-1 and celebrated their goals by making eagle gestures with their hands – references to the double-headed eagle on the Albanian flag.

Both were fined 10,000 Swiss francs (€10,150, $10,570) by FIFA for "unsporting behavior."

mf/km (AFP/dpa)