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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before