What’s More Serious?

What is more serious? To put the Serbia–Albania soccer incident in an American context, let’s ask: is it a KKK crowd chanting “kill all the n****s,” or a banner with MLK’s picture flying into a stadium reserved for Whites only? The banner might also have the silhouette of a Sioux chief and the word “indigenous” stamped below. And a map of an independent Amerindian nation.

But what’s the big deal? Serbian fans brought a barrel of benzene into the stadium, hooligans attacked the Albanian players, the police aided in the process, and security guards joined the battering. Serbia’s president, nicknamed “the Gravedigger,” blamed the incident on Albania. Some high officials also spoke of a conspiracy involving the United States. The Serbian prime minister, a former member of the yobbo group that invaded the pitch, had this flat lie to make with a straight face: the brother of the Albanian prime minister navigated the drone.

As a writer recently recalled, the father of the Serbian nation had once said, “to lie is our state interest. In this country, every lie becomes a truth eventually.”

The naive international media bought the bogus statements of the democratically-elected Serbian leaders. EU officials praised the Serbian police for their response. UEFA, the European soccer organization, is not investigating Serbia for racism, while Albania may be fined for displaying “an illicit banner” and for “refusing to play” after its players were violated. To top it all, UEFA’s president and Serbian friend Michel Platini asked quite the rhetorical question, “What if the drone had been carrying a bomb instead?” Now, this should explain why an Albanian Catholic priest called Europe “a whore.”

Many Albanians, as the innocent and peaceful souls they are, have now resorted to criticizing the person who flew the flag-carrying drone into the Belgrade stadium. Others have gone as far as to blame the Albanian players for not allowing their Serb opponents to desecrate the banner and for defending themselves against a herd of roughnecks. (As to the fight though, I can proudly say, thirty Albanians kicked the butt of 30.000 bandits.)

They used the drone to justify the violence. The commentator on Serbian television called the flag “a great, great provocation from the Albanian side.” But as others note, “the very existence of the Albanians is a provocation to them.” Political scientist Donik Sallova writes in a recent post about a series of government programs and memoranda of the Serbian academy of sciences calling for the extermination of the Albanians.

Whereas to football, this is not the first time Serbs have turned a stadium into a battlefield. Writer Enver Robelli recalls the final days of Yugoslavia, when Serb police officers beat Croatian players in a game gone wild. The incident was orchestrated by a Serb fan group led by Arkan—one of the most notorious terrorists and war criminals of the 1990s. In the recent years, a French fan was murdered in Belgrade, another international game against Italy was abandoned after Serbian fans invaded the field, and a stadium full of hooligans threw hard objects and made “monkey” noises against the racially-diverse English youth team.

Serbian officials knew of the violence and encouraged it. In fact, they were part of it. The thug who attacked the Albanian captain this week is an infamous name—Ivan Bogdanov, the man who burned the Albanian flag in the match against Italy, invaded the field in the Genoa stadium, and was subsequently “banned” from attending soccer matches for the rest of his life. But this week, he got his “weekend pass.” After all, it was a standard practice for the Serbian state to let convicts out of prison so they could do the dirty work against Albanian civilians.

The Serbian state insists in carrying out its mission of injustice. The news media report, among other incidents, that Albanian expats who have recently transited through Serbia en route to other parts of Europe are receiving traffic tickets for pretend violations. This week alone, the Swedish police received hundreds of calls from concerned citizens who were fined for allegedly “speeding” while in Serbian territory. Bogus traffic tickets! So reminiscent of the police that once extorted and terrorized the Albanians in Kosova. Belgrade withdrew its troops from Kosova in 1999 after a NATO air campaign to save the ethnic Albanian population from Serbian atrocities. 15 years later, Serbia has not changed a bit.

It is a pity. And above all, it is a pity for Serbia. For those few Serbian players who wanted fair play and did not get to show their talent and love for the game. For those who wanted to see football and they were treated with mixed martial arts. And for Serbs such as human rights activist Goran Miletić who were the first to ask: what is more serious, chanting “Death to Albanians” or displaying a flag at a stadium?

The Serbian argument in other words: “Her miniskirt was too revealing. She was asking for me to rape her.”

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