Euro 2024: Kosovar reporter barred over gesture to Serbia fans

UEFA has cancelled the media credentials of Kosovar journalist Arlind Sadiku at Euro 2024 following complaints about a nationalist gesture he made towards Serbia fans during their game against England on Sunday in Gelsenkirchen.

Football Federation of Serbia (FFS) spokesman Milan Vukovic asked for Sadiku’s removal saying he provoked Serbian fans when he turned towards them during a live broadcast and made a double-headed eagle with his hands.

The gesture mimics the eagle on Albania‘s national flag, which can inflame tensions between Serbian nationalists and ethnic Albanians, who make up the vast majority of Kosovo’s population.

After the Kosovo war in the late 1990s, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. But Serbia does not recognise it as an independent state.

“UEFA can confirm that one journalist has had his accreditation cancelled due to misconduct at the UEFA EURO 2024 match between Serbia and England on 16 June 2024,” UEFA said in a statement.

Sadiku told Reuters his accreditation was taken from him when he showed up for Albania’s press conference on Tuesday.

He acknowledged the gesture was unprofessional for a journalist, but argued that it is not “offensive to anyone.”

“People don’t know how I was feeling in that moment because I have trauma from the war,” he told Reuters, adding that he had received death threats via social media.

UEFA also fined the Albanian and Serbian football federations €10,000 ($10,700) each on Wednesday for fans displaying banners with nationalist maps at European Championship games.

Each federation was charged with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event” because they are responsible for the conduct of their fans at stadiums.

Serbia fans’ banner included the independent territory of Kosovo and a slogan “No Surrender” at the loss to England. A case was prosecuted by FIFA at the 2022 World Cup when players were photographed with a similar banner in their locker room ahead of a game against Brazil.

Albania fans displayed a banner with a map of their country extending its borders into the territory of neighboring countries. It was shown during the 2-1 loss against Italy on Saturday in Dortmund.

UEFA also opened a separate investigation into alleged discrimination by Serbia fans. The Kosovo soccer federation field a formal complaint with UEFA.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.