Kick Serbia out of UEFA

 

Crowd violence is nothing new in football, especially on the terraces of Europe. But what happened in Genoa this week at the Italy vs Serbia Euro 2012 qualifier should be the circuitbreaker for change.

It's time to say no more. No more tolerance of men who boast they are proud of their country but use convenient pretexts as an excuse to indulge in violence. No more oxygen given to any football federation that cannot control its own travelling supporters.

It's time to suspend Serbia from European competition.

The scenes at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris were a disgrace, the game abandoned after just seven minutes by referee Craig Thomson because of the clear and present danger to fans, players and officials from the flare-throwing Serbian "supporters" who had already terrorised Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic to the point where he decided to withdraw from the match. Stojkovic, you see, made the mistake of transferring from Sporting Lisbon to Partizan Belgrade. He had once played for Red Star, Partizan's hated crosstown rivals.

Just another excuse. Like every other excuse for violence trotted out by these morons. The sacking of Radomir Antic. Kosovo's moves to independence. The aspirations of the Serbian government to join the EU. The Belgrade police coming down hard on homophobic thugs who attacked a gay pride parade.

This was a football match. Football is a celebration of the richness of humanity, in all its differences and distinctions. But elements within Serbia, as within neighbouring Croatia, use it as a wedge to skirmish and divide.

Already the blame game has started.

Italian security director Roberto Massucci says "fans that are so dangerous should not have arrived in Genoa" and "we had not been given any signs of the degree of danger of these fans... there was no one here from the Serbian police".

Others are turning on the Genoa police for not being adequately prepared, Italian opposition figure Massimo Donadi decrying that Serbian fans "were allowed enter Italy with the intention of devastating a city" and Serbian interior minister Ivica Dacic insisting "the intervention of Italian police could have been much better".

Maybe so. But the police didn't put flares and fireworks into some of those hands. Some reports have metal bars and secateurs being smuggled into the ground. No one forced a cell of the 1600 or so "ultras" who were in Genoa to storm the Serbian team bus and attack Stojkovic. The Serbs weren't compelled under duress to smash glass partitions or throw flares at the Italian goalkeeper.

These "supporters" are anything but. They are destroying Serbian football. They are bringing ignominy to European football. They are enemies of the game, not its fans.

It might seem heavyhanded to suspend Serbia from Euro 2012 qualifiers but until such time as it is made abundantly clear that Serbia and Serbia alone is responsible for the behaviour of those who follow its football team, nothing will change. Seven people have died in football-related deaths in Serbia since 2002.

The excuses have to stop. In the words of Serbian state prosecutor Slobodan Radovanovic, these fans "have nothing in common with sports, rather they have much more in common with crime".

He's absolutely right. It's time they were brought to justice.

Previous articles from Jesse Fink:
* A-League needs a New York State of Mind
* Players will be players - on the field and off
* Iran looks to be the power in Asia
* Juventus and Liverpool heading in opposite directions
* Reputation has no price
* Kick Serbia out of UEFA