Serbia to seek replay against Italy
Serbia’s football officials said Friday they will demand a replay of the Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy, and blamed Italian organizers for failing to prevent the violence that caused the game to be abandoned.
The match in Genoa on Tuesday was called off after seven minutes when Serbia supporters threw flares and fireworks onto the field and broke barriers. Violent clashes continued through the night, and 16 people, including two policemen, were injured.
Serbian Football Federation president Tomislav Karadzic said officials will meet UEFA president Michel Platini on Monday and ask for a replay. The European football governing body is to decide on sanctions on Oct. 28.
While UEFA has warned that penalties against Serbia could include disqualification from Euro 2012 or exclusion from future competitions, the Italian football federation is worried it may be penalized for allowing the Serbian fans to enter the stadium with an arsenal of fireworks, flares and other destructive material.
Italy will likely be awarded a 3-0 victory for the match, but it could be forced to play home games without fans.
The Italian Football Federation said in a statement on its website that it is "calmly awaiting the developments from the disciplinary proceedings under way at UEFA and intends to continue to maintain responsible conduct even as far as statements go."
Karadzic condemned the Serbian fans, but also said poor organization by the Italian FA was responsible for the rioting.
"We had information that the Serbian fans would try to disrupt the match," Karadzic said. "We told the organizers and Italian police about the possible trouble, but they obviously did not react in a professional manner."
"We should not be surprised by the likely UEFA sanctions, but we will do all we can to tell the truth about what has happened in Italy," Karadzic said.
Hours before the match, the Serbian fans entered a team bus transporting Serb players to the stadium, searching for goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic. Stojkovic upset Red Star Belgrade fans by moving to the club’s fierce rival Partizan in the offseason.
Eight Serbian fans, including the alleged ringleader of the rioting, were arrested in Italy after the abandoned match. At least another 19 others were arrested while returning to Serbia.
Serbian officials said the fans belong to the same far-right groups that clashed with police in Belgrade last Sunday while trying to disrupt a gay pride parade, leaving more than 150 people injured and much of the downtown damaged.