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Montenegro: Serbs under pressure not to play against Kosovo

June 7, 2019

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegro’s Serbian-born coach and two players have boycotted a European Championship qualifier against Kosovo after pressure from Serbia.

Coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic and players Marko Ivanic and Filip Stojkovic did not take part in Friday’s match in Podgorica, though three other ethnic Serb players were with the national team.

Montenegro’s football association has scheduled a meeting after the game to formally sack the coach.

State-controlled media in neighboring Serbia launched a campaign against Serbs playing in games with Kosovo, which declared its independence from the country in 2008. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

The match Friday was played without fans because of a ban imposed after England players were racially abused in the Montenegrin capital during the previous qualification round. Security forces were deployed around the venue to prevent any trouble.

Montenegro, which split from much larger Serbia in 2006, was admitted into European soccer’s governing body UEFA in 2016 despite strong opposition from Serbia.

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