Balkan brouhaha: UEFA bans Daku, Croatia and Albania face sanctions

June 23 – The verbal warfare between the respective Balkan countries at Euro 2024 has taken yet another twist with Albania’s Mirlind Daku banned for two games after leading fans in nationalist chants.

In an unprecedented move in a major European tournament, Daku (pictured) grabbed a megaphone after Albania’s 2-2 draw with Croatia on Wednesday and joined in chanting slogans against Serbia and North Macedonia.

Despite apologising, UEFA have taken stern action which means he misses Monday’s confrontation with hotly favoured Spain in Dusseldorf.

UEFA also imposed fines on the Albanian FA totaling €47,250 for incidents at the game in Hamburg, where both sets of supporters chanted an ugly anti-Serb slogan. Serbia had threatened to quit the tournament if UEFA did not punish the perpetrators.

Daku, 26, began playing for Albania last year, having used his right under FIFA rules to change his eligibility from Kosovo, the ethnic-Albanian former province of Serbia that declared independence 16 years ago following the war that killed thousands, the vast majority Kosovar Albanians.

Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo’s statehood, considering it part of Serbia even though most United Nations members take the opposite stance.

UEFA also announced charges against the Albanian and Croatian federations for “potential racist and/or discriminatory conduct” by fans who were reportedly chanting ‘Kill the Serbs’ in Serbian.

Croatia was formerly part of Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, declaring independence in 1991 that led to a four-year war, part of the wider conflict brought on by the breakup of Yugoslavia.

With the largest ever number of teams from the Balkan region taking part in a single major European finals, there has been an outpouring of fervent nationalism, with provocative banners as well as chanting across the 10 stadiums.

UEFA said its disciplinary judges had found Daku guilty of “failing to comply with the general principles of conduct, for violating the basic rules of decent conduct, for using sports events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature and for bringing the sport of football into disrepute.”

Although Albania – with a single point so far – are huge underdogs against the rampant Spanish in their final group game, an upset win could see them make the last 16 which Daku would also miss.

In a surprise move a few weeks ago, the Albanian and Serbian federations announced they had teamed up, despite opposition from many fans, in a bid to co-host the Under-21 Euros in 2027.

The other candidates are Belgium and Turkey and UEFA’s executive committee – which includes a vice president from Albania, Armand Duka – now has a tough call to make when it votes in December.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1721224258labto1721224258ofdlr1721224258owedi1721224258sni@w1721224258ahsra1721224258w.wer1721224258dna1721224258