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Serbian Bosniaks Condemn Football Player’s Ban

By Bojana Barlovac

Parties in Serbia’s mainly Muslim Serbian region of Sandzak have condemned the Serbian Football Association for banning a player who refused to sing the national anthem.

The Bosniak Cultural Community, the biggest Bosniak [Muslim] party in the southwest Sandzak region, has accused Sinisa Mihajlovic, coach of the Serbian football team, of discriminating against Bosniaks.
Adem Ljajic, Photo by Beta

On Monday, Mihajlovic banned Adem Ljajic, a Bosniak player, from the international line-up after he failed to sing the national anthem before Saturday’s match with Spain.

Ljajic said he did not join in for “personal reasons” but that failed to satisfy Mihajlovic.

“This act of discrimination by the coach has confirmed that Bosniaks cannot merit a place in the [national] football team without giving up their identity,” the Bosniak Cultural Community said.

Another Bosniak party, the Bosniak People’s Party, BNS, also condemned the move. The party said that Ljajic had shown he respected the constitution and the country by wanting to defend “the colours of Serbia”.

“However, Ljajic must not be forced to sing the anthem which is only adapted to the Serbian people and Serbian citizens of the Orthodox religion,” the party said.

Serbia’s national anthem, “God of Justice”, reads: “God our Master! Guide and prosper the
Serbian lands and Serbian race!”

The party said if the team continued like this, Serbian Bosniak athletes would have no choice but to play for other countries.

The Serbian Football Federation has defended Mihajlovic’s move, saying that by failing to sing the anthem, Ljajic breached the team’s code of conduct.

The code is a set of rules Mihajlovic issued last week that needs to be signed by all players and staff. The first item on the code is that everyone has to sing the national anthem.

However, the football federation has refused to send the document to Balkan Insight. “It is a secret document,” the federation said.

Meanwhile, Mihajlovic said the doors of the national team are not closed forever to Ljajic but he needs to change his attitude and officially notify Mihajlovic that he has done so. “When his form merits it, he can return,” Mihajlovic said.

Video footage of the game shows that Ljajic wasn’t the only player who didn’t sing the anthem. Non-singers included Neven Subotic.

About the Author

Balkan Insight
Balkan Insight
The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

12 Comments on "Serbian Bosniaks Condemn Football Player’s Ban"

  1. What makes hime different to anyone else? This player has no respect for his own country. Didnt he sign the player code of conduct? I wouldve have thrown him out as well. Well done Sinisha.

  2. This is pure racism! it is his right not to sing the national anthem when it excludes his community ! Going by Mick’s comment half the England squad should be banned as they don’t sing the national anthem whether for personal reasons or they just don’t know the words. Mihajlovic & The Serbian Football Federation should be punished by FIFA, but that’ll never happen as they live in cloud cuckoo land giving Poland & the Ukraine Euro 2012!! Madness!!

    • Ljajic signed a player code of conduct like all the other players and officials which included that you have to know and sing the national anthem. How is that racism? Its no wonder Florentina’s coach had a swipe at him bad attitude. Ljajic just hates taking orders.

  3. Aleksandar Petakov | May 31, 2012 at 4:39 am | Reply

    Spitfire you cannot be racist against a religion…Serbs and Bosniaks are the same people, religion is the only thing that divides him..Adem comes from a region of Serbia where these “Bosniaks” frequently burn Serbian flags and wave Turkish flags instead.

    What Sinisa did is completely reasonable…The actual anthem has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity it is simply about god…As I understand Muslims have the same god his name is simply “Allah”. It’s fair that Sinisa did this Adem signed the contract and he violated it and is paying the price for it. Enough said.

  4. Subotic didnt sing the anthem because he doesnt know it. He was brought up in the States. Ljajic is an overrated primadonna anyway. Good riddance.

  5. Obviously, not much has changed in Serbia since the Milosevic years, and one can only laugh at someone like Sinisa Mihailovic who was born in Croatia, his mother is Croat, but sadly he wants to be just as nationalistic as his namesake from WW2, Draze Mihailovic and we all know what he tried to achieve, however he failed fortunately. I take my hat off to Adem Ljajic for sticking to his beliefs. And since when is it an obligation to sing to a national anthem? Neven Subotic didn`t sing, but he`s forgiven…..only because he is a `true Serb` (even though he`s born in the US). Another great moment in Serbian sport.

  6. @spitfire96
    Can you please name precisely which race is being discriminated against by your alleged racism? A religion is not a race, just like a player who refuses to sing for a country cannot be relied upon to give 100% for that country. Please provide a historical overview of Turkish Ottoman Empire practice of ‘devsirme’ (look it up if you don’t know what it is) in your answer. You should stick to commenting on stuff you know something about. Cheers.

    • Islamophobia is a form of racism and as for devsirme which happened centuries ago you can’t blame that on Ljajic can you! Aleksandar Petakov, did Ljajic burn Serbian flag? no he just didn’t sing the Serbian national anthem! Mihajlovic was just looking for a reason to get rid of him!

  7. Ljajic is from a region of ethnic Bosniaks which make up 80% of the population. The local footbal team is 80% Serb however and so is the police. The Albanians suffered the same discrimination in Kosovo , that is why they left.The Serb government should learn from previous mistakes.

  8. Why does he not go play for Bosnia or anyone else for that matter? If he can’t stand to sing Serbian anthem, he should not be playing on the Serb team. Imagine if in the USA one of the hockey players refused to sing the anthem for “personal reasons”. He would be persona- non-grata the next second and there would be no tolerance. Adem is a disgrace to Serbs as well as his Muslims.

  9. Michael, Raska (Sandzak) is not 80% Bosniak. It’s more like 50-55% with the rest being Serb, Montenegrin etc..

    Get your facts straight before making absurd comments.

    Fact of the matter is, Ljajic signed a code of conduct, he failed to adhere to it, and he was dropped for it. It’s simple really, if you don’t agree with something, do NOT sign on the dotted line.

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