After battle tank, Red Star celebrates on armored vehicle
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — After parking a battle tank at the gates of their stadium, Red Star Belgrade fans packed into an open-top armored troop carrier with some players to mark their Champions League qualification.
The Serbian team reached the group stage of the European soccer competition for the second straight season following a 1-1 draw with Swiss champion Young Boys on Tuesday.
After the match, Red Star fans and players joined the late night victory parade on the streets of the Serbian capital by riding on a large armored personnel carrier.
It was not clear who provided both the troop carrier and the T-55 battle tank which triggered angry reaction in Croatia because they say it symbolizes the Serb-led army intervention during the bloody breakup of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s.
After a public outcry over the appearance of armored vehicles on Belgrade streets, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic responded that they don’t belong to the army or police and that “the only problem could be the registration” of the troop carrier.
In a tit-for-tat move, Dinamo Zagreb fans responded by parking a rusty tractor in front of their stadium in the Croatian capital.
The tractor symbolizes the exodus of tens of thousands of Serbs from Croatia in 1995 during a Croatian army offensive to retake the rebel Serb enclaves at the end of the war for independence. The Croatian Serbs fled mostly on tractor trailers.
Dinamo also qualified for the group stage of the Champions League after a 1-1 draw against Rosenborg on Tuesday. Both Red Star and Dinamo could find themselves in the same group after Thursday’s draw, which could become a major security headache for UEFA and authorities in the rival Balkan countries.