Serbia expelled from handball event for cancelling Kosovo match
Preparations for a historic handball match between political adversaries Serbia and Kosovo ended in chaos on Friday with the expulsion of the host nation after it canceled the fixture over security concerns, APA reports quoting Reuters.
The women’s Under-20 World Championship qualifier would have been the first documented sporting encounter between Serbia and its former province, which declared independence in 2008 and which Belgrade does not recognize as a nation state.
But Serbia’s Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic ordered the match to be scrapped over security concerns, a day after dozens of chanting youths carrying flares and national flags gathered outside the match venue.
The European Handball Federation (EHF) had arranged the game, part of a four-team event, in consultation with Serbian authorities.
In light of Friday’s cancellation - which Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj called “unthinkable” - it was expelling the Serbian team from the tournament, the EHF said in a statement.
Stefanovic earlier suggested, in comments to news web site B92, that the government had been an unwilling participant.
“Could we have organized for this match to go ahead? Certainly. But at what cost?,” he was quoted as saying. “We are not ready to have the police beat up people for the sake of a match which contradicts all our positions.”
The European Union has made Serbia committing to stable relations with Kosovo a prerequisite for membership of the bloc, and the country’s presidents, Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci, met in Brussels on Thursday for a fresh round of EU-sponsored talks.
But Belgrade continues to refuse to recognize Pristina institutions and has attempted to prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations, including sports associations.
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