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.
The Balkan Insight (forner the Balkan 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.
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