Football Around the world: Fan violence mars derby in Belgrade

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The Independent Online

THE YUGOSLAVIAN national team will find out today if Uefa, European football's ruling body, will allow them to play Saturday's scheduled European Championship qualifier against Croatia in Belgrade.

The first football match between the two nations since the break-up of the old and the subsequent war was always going to be a tense occasion, even without the threat of Nato air strikes against Serbia. Now it seems likely that the fixture will be postponed until late April or moved to a neutral venue - although it is hard to envisage any other country being willing to host the Yugoslavs and the Croats.

Events at the weekend, though, showed that football violence can erupt in without the presence of people from other countries. On Saturday rival fans clashed before and during the 2-2 derby draw between Red Star and Partizan Belgrade.

Supporters of both clubs and police officers were injured - one fan was stabbed. Visiting Partizan fans threw seating on to the pitch during the game and there was more trouble near the end of the match, when four Red Star supporters invaded the pitch and had to be forcibly removed by police.

Two of the top teams in Croatia also met at the weekend in an encounter marred by violence. The new North Stand at Croatia Zagreb's Maksimir stadium was opened prior to the 1-0 win over Hajduk Split - but the home fans ruined the celebration by ripping out new plastic seats, which they used to attack police.


NEXT WEDNESDAY'S European Championship qualifier between Russia and Andorra will be moved, at the request of Uefa, from Vladikavkaz to the Lokomotiv stadium in Moscow, after a terrorist bomb explosion in the city's main market place killed more than 50 people last Friday.

The capital of the Russian region of North Ossetia, Vladikavkaz is just 35 miles from war-torn Chechnya, and there were security concerns over the fixture even prior to the bomb explosion.

"Vladikavkaz will have to wait for another time, perhaps when the situation there is more stable," the president of the Russian Football Union, Vyacheslav Koloskov, said.


DINO ZOFF, Italy's coach, will have to field a new strike force for the European Championship qualifiers against Denmark in Copenhagen on Saturday and Belarus in Ancona tomorrow week.

Lazio's Christian Vieri, who scored five goals at the World Cup last year, broke a toe in Serie A action on Sunday, With Alessandro del Piero, Italy's other top striker, out for six months with a knee injury, Zoff has turned to the Internazionale veteran Roberto Baggio and a largely inexperienced cast of fellow strikers.

Francesco Totti and Marco Delvecchio, team-mates with Roma, were joined by Parma's Enrico Chiesa and Filippo Inzaghi of Juventus - a quartet whose average age is 25 - in the squad named yesterday for both games by Zoff.