Violence Erupts in the UEFA Cup

Following on the heels of recent trouble in the Intertoto Cup, last night saw serious trouble at a UEFA Cup first qualifying round match between Bosnia’s Zrinjski Mostar and Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade (see video below).

Play was held up for ten minutes early in the first half in Mostar after rival fans clashed with riot police and security stewards while pelting each other with flares and rocks. Italian referee Andrea De Marco allowed the match to resume after police quelled the violence…Television images showed very few police and security officials in place for what was declared a high-risk match, only the second meeting between clubs from Bosnia and Serbia since the former Yugoslavia’s bloody break-up.

The last sentence is the killer. When we post videos of crowd trouble in faraway places of which we know little, it’s very hard to understand the context of the trouble. How is it possible there were “very few police and security officials in place” for a clash between Bosnian and Serbian teams? What were the authorities thinking?

[Spotted on Who Ate All The Pies]

15 thoughts on “Violence Erupts in the UEFA Cup

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  2. ursus arctos

    It’s even more inexplicable than your description makes it sound.

    Zrinski aren’t just a Bosnian club; they are the historical club of the Croatian community in Mostar; which was of course the subject of serious Serbian shelling during the war, resulting in the destruction of the Unesco world heritage monument bridge and a significant human toll. The Croatian connection explains the noticeable presence of Croatian national team jerseys in the home crowd.

    From the clip, this was pretty much all the work of the Partizani, which isn’t really a surprise when you see that they are wearing t-shirts featuring the fugitive war criminal Mladic and celtic crosses (as well as slogans in cyrillic letters that I don’t really want to try to translate). How that kind of crowd was allowed into the ground with an industrial quantity of flares, rocks and other missles is the question that the club and the Mostar police will have to answer. Perhaps they were simply afraid to try to search them or deny them entry.

    DeMarco was almost certainly wondering why the police weren’t wading into the crowd with batons blazing. It’s what he would expect from the carabineri at home, though I think their restraint was actually admirable in the circumstances (they did seem to focus on keeping any Zrinski hotheads from getting overly involved.

    Partizan will be very lucky if they aren’t tossed from the competition.

  3. Pietro Paolo Virdis

    When Zvonimir Boban famously kicked down a police officer at the game between Red Star Belgrade and Dinamo Zagreb more than a decade ago, most of the police officers at that game were Bosniak (Muslims), and that very police officer was. Boban and him have since met and reconciled. It was a very communist thing to do to make sure that the police were predominately Bosniak (I bet you the officers in charge were not) when you have one Serb and one Croat side facing one another in Zagreb. And trust me when I say that most police officers were not Bosniak when the same sides played one another in Belgrade.

    A game between the Croat side in Mostar and visiting Serbs from Belgrade, I’m sure the Bosniak’s in the local police force didn’t exactly line up and voulantair to work this one. I bet you they were thinking “let the fu**ers sort this one out themselves, I’m not getting my skull smashed in over either Mladić or Pavelić chanting”.

    I also don’t think it was easy to find voluntaries among the Croats in the police local force to work on a night when they knew for sure that they would be outnumbered and likely to get injured in the inevitable riots.

    At the same time it seems very strange that they allowed the Partizan fans right next to the Zrinjski fans, with nowt but a fence in-between, almost like it was deliberate. And if you watch some of the police, they seem casual about the whole thing, not to mention that commentator, he sounds as if he’s witnessing this daily and it’s nothing weird or worth raising an eyebrow over.

    It’s worth pointing out that among the Croats, those in Herzegovina have a reputation of being the most nationalistic. It has always been like that. Dinamo vs. Partizan would be mostly football and ultras groups of the former Yugoslavia clashing once again, and quite some politics, but Zrinjski vs. Partizan is mostly politics and little football. This is the reason for the Mladić shirts some of the Partizan fans are sporting. I doubt you’d see a single one at a game vs. Dinamo. It simply doesn’t have the same provocative effect as it does in this game.

  4. ursus arctos


    I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see you comment on this. You are better placed to discuss the context of the entire episode (and so much else regarding football in the former Jugoslavija) than anyone else that I know, and I very much hope you stick around.

    You know, when my grandfather had a bit too much alcohol, he tended to go on and on about how great Poland could have been if “we” had only been allowed to survive. Sometimes I think of Jugoslavija that way in the football sense, a country that could have accomplished so much more than it was ever “allowed” to.

    With any luck, I’ll be going back to Slovenija for the first time since the war in a couple of a weeks. Ursus minor has already been twice with his Slovene mother and loves it; he’s taking Slovene lessons via audiotape. Croatia and Bosnia are for next year, or maybe two years hence.

  5. Pietro Paolo Virdis

    Cheers ua,

    This, the BiH football clubs and the league is such a complex and interesting subject that I really need to do what I’ve been planning for a while, that is, to write an article about it. The Mostar derby alone is worth one.

    Zrinjski Mostar are supported by Croats, the west side of the city, while Velež Mostar is a Bosniak club, the east side of town. Velež play at home in a village outside of the city, while Zrinjski play theirs in the old Velež stadium.

    Zrinjski is taken from an old Croatian king, while Velež is the mountain you can see in the background when you see the stadium.

    Since 02/03 Muslim, Croat and Serb clubs play in the same league.

    I’ve checked a BiH football forum, a very interesting one which I wish you could read. Muslims, Croats and Serbs chatting in a quite calm, civilized manner. Something I think another forum I have in mind could learn from. A couple of the guys were at the game and they say it started already when the Partizan supporters entered the city from the east. Velež supporters, not Zrinjski, had gathered and were attacking the buses. Then inside the stadium the Partizan supporters put on their act with what they’d brought. How police allowed them to bring flares and the works into the stadium and why they acted so lame when the riots started I can only guess, and thinking a bit more about it I’m prepared to do a U-turn from my comment yesterday. Maybe the police were indeed mostly Bosniak, and they didn’t care much whether Serb and Croat supporters clashed. I need to find out and will check with some mates down there.

    The Partizan supporters were rushed into their buses and sent on their way right after the game. One bloke was seriously injured in the leg, and another lost a finger. Several other were injured as well, and while the Partizan supporters were on their way home, war broke out in Mostar between the police and the Zrinjski fans.

    Like I said, it is worth digging deep into the football down there.

  6. Pietro Paolo Virdis

    The Partizan fans entered the Bijeli Brijeg stadium chanting…

    “Nož, žica

    which means

    “A Knife, barbed wire

    It’s very odd in so many ways. It’s obvious what it’s about, the chant, it’s about all the people being killed at Srebrenica, but those people were mostly Bosniak, and they were about to play a Croat side.

    Once the riots began the Croats started to sing “Ubi Srbe” = Kill the Serbs.

  7. ursus arctos

    Partizan have just been thrown out of the UEFA Cup and fined 50,000 Swiss Francs.

    They have three days to appeal.

  8. Pietro Paolo Virdis

    They got to play the second leg which the won 5-0 at home, but were thrown out anyway.

  9. ursus arctos

    Evidently, the appeal allowed them to play the second leg, but on the express condition that if it was unsuccessful, they would be thrown out.

    Which is exactly what happened. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.

  10. StephL

    Two years ago, I was lucky to visit the beautiful city of Mostar, where the famous bridge has of course been rebuilt. This is very much a divided city (not by the river, but by an avenue still full of shelled buildings).
    Hardly anyone from both comunities is crossing that avenue to venture
    in the other area.
    Actually, in this case, it was not the Serbs who destructed the bridge,
    but the Croats who were bombing the Muslim part of town (where the old
    Ottoman bridge is situated). There is a small museum now besides the bridge which is showing pictures of all the pahse of the destruction of the bridge. This was quite moving.
    I don’t think that the Serbs where (for once) involved there, but I’m
    not absolutely sure about that.
    We had the chance to catch a Velez game while there (they were then in
    the Bosnian division 2, since then they have been promoted). They have to
    play their home games in a village a few kilometres outside the city of
    Mostar, in a small stadium, while Zrinjski plays in their (much bigger) pre-war stadium where Velez used to play before the Yugoslavia break-up. As it is located in the Croat part of the town, they can’t play there anymore.
    Last year, my (Belgian) Hearts friends travelled to Bosnia for the
    Siroki Brijeg vs Hearts game in the CL qualifiers. Siroki Brijeg beeing a
    Croat club and having no ground fitting UEFA’s requirments, they played in
    Mostar. My friends stayed in the Bosniak part of town, where all the
    locals told them “I hope you stuff these bastards,etc…” . Last season, the
    Veez-Zrinjski derby resumed, I wonder how it went…

  11. Pietro Paolo Virdis

    I just read that in 36 European games (from the season 89/90) Partizan has been penalized 25 times due to crowd related disturbances. Maybe they’re out to break some record.

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