War In The Balkans: Irish ban football match with Serbs

War in the Balkans

IRELAND risked being thrown out of European football championship yesterday, after the government cancelled a planned football match with Yugoslavia on account of Serbian atrocities in Kosovo.

The match was scheduled for this weekend and Dublin had confronted intense pressure from European football's governing body, UEFA, to go ahead. Some football observers warned Ireland could be banned from the next World Cup and said the price of the cancellation would amount to at least pounds 2m in lost receipts. The game is part of qualifying for the 2000 European Championship.

But the prospect of a public sporting contest with Serbian players appalled the entire Irish Cabinet, the Football Association of Ireland, the international team and their supporters, and numerous political pressure groups. They threatened demonstrations if the tie was played. As a result, the authorities resolved not to grant the Yugoslav side visas to enter Ireland.

Earlier, the government had suggested that it might allow the game to go ahead, but would show its displeasure by ensuring both no public officials attended the match and that it was not broadcast to Yugoslavia. The Football Association of Ireland had also pledged to ban the Yugoslav flag and anthem from being played in the stadium.

However, the Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern yesterday made his support for stronger action plain when he denounced the Belgrade government in the strongest terms, lambasting "the illegal and appalling actions of the Yugoslav regime against the people of Kosovo".

There was particular unease in Ireland because the match would have been the first played by the Yugoslav side since Serbia's massive campaign of "ethnic cleansing" of ethnic Albanians got underway in Kosovo in March.

And while no one was suggesting that members of the football team were connected with the horrors of Kosovo, there were fears that the Serbian leadership would present the match as a sign that it was not as internationally isolated as Nato likes to suggest.

Criticising UEFA for its refusal to cancel the match on its own authority, Dublin said: "In view of this failure on the part of Uefa to accept its responsibilities, the unacceptable situation in Kosovo and the indictments of the International Tribunal against the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the government is convinced that it would not be appropriate for this football match to take place in Ireland."

While some voices in Ireland were expected to criticise the apparent mixing of sports and politics, the Irish sports minister pre-empted such complaints by saying he thought attempts to separate them were "an illusion."

The British sports minister Tony Banks said he sympathised with Ireland's dilemma and said if the match had been scheduled for England, he would not want it to go ahead.

Yugoslavia was banned from international competitions for three years during the war in Bosnia under UN sanctions but they were lifted after the 1995 peace deal on Bosnia.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital