Montenegro sack Serbian Tumbakovic for refusal to turn up for Kosovo qualifier

June 10 – Montenegro’s FA (FSCG) has sacked their Serbian manager after he refused to lead the national side for a Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo.

Tumbakovic did not turn up on Friday for their home game, which Montenegro drew 1-1 to hurt its hopes of reaching its first major tournament.

Tumbakovic had reportedly come under pressure from the Serbian authorities in Belgrade which does not recognise the independence of Kosovo. Serbia-born players Filip Stojkovic and Mirko Ivanic also pulled out of the game

Montenegro’s football federation (FSCG) called Tumbakovic’s decision an “unpleasant surprise”.

The Group A match in Podgorica took place behind closed doors as punishment for racist chanting aimed at England players in March.

Tumbakovic, who won six league titles and three domestic cups over two spells with Partizan Belgrade in his homeland, had been in charge of Montenegro since January 2016.

An FSCG statement said: “The executive board made a unanimous decision to relieve Tumbakovic of his duties after he decided not to be in charge of the national team for the match.

“Apart from being an unpleasant surprise, Tumbakovic’s move also constitutes a breach of his professional duties stipulated by his contract.”

The federation also said it “regrets” the decisions of Red Star Belgrade duo Stojkovic and Ivanic not to play, blaming “pressure from certain circles”.

“Things which have nothing to do with sports have defeated sports and football on this occasion,” added the statement.

Kosovo, whose population is made up of 90% ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Most countries recognise it as an independent nation but Serbia doesn’t and nor does China, Russia and five EU members.

Crucially, Kosovo gained membership of both FIFA and UEFA three years ago and last week UEFA had to step into the row over countries unwilling to play against them.

Earlier this year Spain were stripped of hosting qualifying games of the Under-17 European Championship for refusing to recognise the national symbols of Kosovo but UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said UEFA’s policy “obliges all other teams to accept to play against Kosovo national and club teams as the result of a draw, be it on their own territory or on the territory of Kosovo. Likewise Kosovo must accept to play against any other teams, home and away.”

However, Ceferin immediately provided a loophole by adding that a team hosting Kosovo can decide to play on neutral ground.

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