Outrage in Serbia at football riots

Image caption,
Some papers believe the violence was deliberately orchestrated

The violence by Serbian fans at Tuesday night's Euro 2010 football qualifier in Italy has provoked anger and dismay in Serbia itself.

It came only days after riots on the streets of Belgrade, as mobs tried to attack a gay pride rally.

The Serbian press has linked the two events, in some cases suggesting they may have been part of a deliberate attempt to undermine Serbia's ambitions to join the European Union.

Even the usually anti-government tabloids have pleaded with the state to act against "this evil".

Security fears

"National shame: This is death of Serbia", screamed the nationalist tabloid Kurir, generally critical of the Serbian leadership and its pro-EU and pro-Nato stances, on its front page.

It added: "Three days ago savages were destroying Belgrade, last night they destroyed Serbian football and shamed us in the eyes of the world: STATE, STOP THIS".

The respected privately-owned weekly Vreme believes "it stands to reason that this is a continuation of the serious incidents that happened in Belgrade on Sunday, 10 October, when the police stopped the stoning of participants in the Pride Parade and when among perpetrators were those wearing football supporters' insignia".

The pro-government broadsheet Politika reassures its readers: "Slim chances of revolution".

But a response by a reader, going by the pen-name prga prga, notes: "If you are thinking about a revolution, the situation must be dramatic".

A commentary in the popular tabloid Novosti strikes a sombre note.

"It is clear after everything that happened in Genoa that this was not spontaneous or happened by accident, that this precise stage-management is not aimed against football or an individual, but against Serbia."

'Deadly plan'

"Mafia toppling state through football!" says the nationalist tabloid Press on its front page. It quotes a security source who claims that a drugs baron on the run is behind the football violence.

"There are plans to provoke fresh, mass unrest after clashes around the Sunday gay parade," the "senior security source" says, adding:

"The aim is for people to die on streets in Serbia, to cause widespread clashes which would lead to total chaos... They will try to topple the government on the streets!"

The source adds that the state is ready to deal with this "hellish plan".

However, two ex-police senior officers told Press they do not believe the mafia scenario. An ex-police commissioner believes that things have just "got out of control", and a retired police general blames the gay parade for provoking violence.

Some web posters see the Genoa incident as an attack on Serbia.

"This looks like a well prepared political move to send this picture about us to the world... This suits quite a few before negotiations with Albanians," says navijac [supporter] on the Politika website.

Sima S.S. believes "football supporters have again been used to carry out tasks on the project to draw Serbia away from the EU".

And the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reports that among the football supporter "were also the 'Arkan Tigers', extremist nationalist fans spawned by a paramilitary group led by Zeljko Raznatovic, whose nickname was Arkan".

The Hague war crimes tribunal indicted Raznjatovic for war crimes. He was murdered in Belgrade in 2000.

Funding questions

Several postings on the Politika website ask how football supporters, many of whom are unemployed, managed to get at least 150 euros (£130) for a trip to Italy.

150 euros is a monthly salary for low paid workers in Serbia.

"150 times 2,000 equals 300,000 euros. Small expenditure for someone, but a grandiose political point," says pragmatista AVP.

The Swiss-owned popular daily Blic reports on its front page that prosecutors are probing sources of finance of the right-wing organisation Obraz, which the police blame for directing football fans to act violently during the Pride Parade.

A Blic source claims that Obraz recently received a "significant amount of money", and suspects at least some of it came from extremist organisations in Russia.

However, most of the 156 postings on the Blic website draw parallels between the October 2000 events, when Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was toppled through street demonstrations in Belgrade, and the current violence.

Posts are critical of the current government, saying it is destroying the country by selling out to the West.

The notable exception is the online edition of the right-wing tabloid Pravda, which ignores the football violence, but reports on its front page that the Obraz leader is singled out as the ringleader of the violence against the Pride Parade.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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