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Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia soccer officials threatened their team could quit the European Championship after they were offended by fan chants reportedly heard during the Albania-Croatia match.

The game on Wednesday ended 2-2 in Hamburg, and Albanian and Croatia fans were reportedly heard teaming up during play to sing a slogan in Serbian.

Hours after Serbia played its second group match Thursday, against Slovenia in Munich, European soccer body UEFA said it asked an in-house investigator to look at the allegations.

A disciplinary inspector was appointed, UEFA said, “to conduct an investigation regarding potential racist and/or discriminatory conduct by supporters that allegedly occurred.”

UEFA gave no timeline for the case, which is unlikely to be resolved before Serbia's third and potentially last game — on Tuesday against Denmark.

"What happened is scandalous and we will ask UEFA for sanctions, even at the cost of not continuing the competition,” Serbia Football Association general secretary Jovan Surbatovic said.

"We will request UEFA to punish the federations of both teams. We don’t want to participate in that, but if UEFA doesn’t punish them, we will think about how to proceed.”

In a separate statement on Thursday, the Serbia FA condemned the “shameful racist behavior” of the Albanian and Croatian fans and said the match should have been suspended as soon as the chants started.

“Such insulting of a nation with cries that they should be killed has not been seen at sports events for a long time,” the statement added.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was with Serbian officials in Munich at the game Thursday against his home country Slovenia, which ended 1-1.

UEFA tournament rules for Euro 2024 call for sanctions against teams refusing to play, and a federation that is “responsible for a match not taking place or not being played in full loses all rights to payments from UEFA.”

Serbia is due to receive at least 9.25 million euros ($9.9 million) from a tournament prize fund of 331 million euros ($355 million) paid from UEFA revenues for broadcast and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales. The Serbia FA also would be liable to pay compensation and face further disciplinary action.

The animosity between Croatian and Albanian fans toward the Serbs, and vice versa, dates to the 1990s wars in the Balkans.

Serbian fans are notorious for their chants against the Croats and Albanians as well as racist shouts and vocal support of convicted war criminals responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

UEFA fined the Albanian and Serbian federations 10,000 euros ($10,700) each after their first group matches for fans displaying banners with nationalist maps.

Each federation is responsible for the conduct of its fans, and UEFA charged Serbia and Albania with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event.”

Albania fans displayed a banner with a map of their country extending its borders into the territory of neighboring countries. It was shown on Saturday during the 2-1 loss against Italy in Dortmund.

A Serbia fans banner included the territory of Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008, and a slogan, “No Surrender,” in the 1-0 loss against England in Gelsenkirchen.

UEFA has also launched an investigation into claims of monkey chants aimed at England players during the clash.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

The Associated Press