Local institutions in the mainly Serbian town of Gracanica, Kosovo, have exerted pressure on a young Serbian football player after he agreed to play for the Kosovo national team.
Local media report that the mother of 17-year-old Ilija Ivic, who recently signed with the Kosovo national team under-19, was fired from her job at local public institutions in Gracanica. His father said he would not be surprised if the same fate awaited him.
Municipality of Gracanica is headed by Mayor Srđan Popović from the Serbian List Party.
Ivic plays with KF Flamurtari, a Kosovo Superleague team. He was recently invited to join the U19 national team of Kosovo and accepted.
“I have been a part of Flamurtari for three years and I feel at home, everyone has accepted me and everything is fine,” he told Telegrafi portal.
“For me, it is a good feeling because my work and quality have been appreciated, it gives me an even greater push to move on,” Ivic added.
Kosovo government and football federation condemned local authorities’actions.
Prime Mini Albin Kurti pointed at “problems of racism and hatred” against Albanians by institutions under the Serbian government’s influence:
“Yesterday, a 17 year old boy in Gracanica Ilija Ivic, was subjected to segregation by Belgrade influenced local structures for wanting to play with Albanians. Agreements alone cannot remedy one’s problems of racism and hatred of others. Let Ilija play freely wherever he chooses,” he tweeted.
“The Republic of Kosovo is a country that respects the rights of all its citizens. Every citizen has the right and freedom to choose his life and career in order to develop normally in our common country,” a statement by the Ministry of Culture and Sports read.
“The Executive Committee of the Football Federation of Kosovo is shocked. We strongly condemn this heinous act undertaken by leaders of institutions operating within the system of the Republic of Kosovo, but also of those of the parallel Serbian system which aim to instill fear in our Serbian citizens, who see Kosovo as their country and want to contribute to its development and to its football,” the Kosovo Football Federation stated. They called on UEFA and FIFA to react against the repeated discrimination cases influenced by or coming from Serbia.