Serbian cup final abandoned after players walk out
Serbian football has been rocked by another scandal after the domestic cup final was abandoned when Vojvodina Novi Sad players walked off the pitch to protest referee decisions.
Partizan Belgrade was awarded the victory in Wednesday's game, for its 12th cup title. It was the latest in a series of incidents that have shaken Serbia's domestic football, including match-fixing allegations, fan riots and death threats against players and football officials.
Vojvodina players refused to continue after not being awarded a penalty in the 82nd minute, with Partizan leading 2-1. Partizan had previously been awarded a disputed spot kick, which Zvonimir Vukic converted.
It was the first time the Serbian cup final had been abandoned.
''This is a definite defeat of Serbian football,'' said Zoran Lakovic, the secretary general of the country's football federation.
The scandal came amid growing allegations that Serbia's football league is ripe with corruption and match-fixing, and warnings by FIFA that the Serbian national and club teams could be banned competitions because of fan violence.
Former national team captain Savo Milosevic was the first to speak openly about irregularities.
In a recent TV interview, Milosevic said that Serbian football is full of crime - pointing out that 10 club presidents have been murdered over the last 10 years, including a general secretary of the football federation.
The former Aston Villa forward said that he was certain he will be able to prove the existence of match-fixing in Serbia. He was soon joined by some other current and former players.
Former Borac Cacak defender Boban Dmitrovic made headlines when he said that a number of matches he played in the Super League were fixed.
''In all cases, the clubs agreed on the outcome of the match,'' Dmitrovic told FIFPro, the international players union. ''Right before the match, a note was handed to the players. They had to cooperate, because their careers would be jeopardized.''
He said he was afraid to report on the allegations to authorities or the federation, ''since I'm sure they are not interested in any investigation, since there are many people in power who are close to a large number of clubs.''
''If I had done so, I would never have played any official match again,'' Dmitrovic said.
Theo van Seggelen, the secretary general of FIFPro, called the situation in Serbia ''a very serious matter.''
''Football in Serbia is going through hard times,'' he said. ''But the players have assumed control and changed course, in the hope of finding a way to a better future.''
Serbian football federation President Tomislav Karadzic has denied the players' accusations, saying there is no evidence of match-fixing in the domestic game.