Police have arrested 26 people after a massive brawl during a match between Belgrade rivals Red Star and Partizan that left at least 20 people injured. Serbian police revealed on Thursday that foreign nationals were among those detained after the match, which ended 1-1.
Six Croats, one Greek and one Bulgarian were reportedly arrested in connection with the violence on Wednesday night. The appearance of Croats at a match in Serbia would be unusual because of strained relations between the two former Yugoslav nations since their war in the 1990s.
Three of the six Croats detained for taking part in a mass hooligan fight during the Partizan-Red Star game on Wednesday were paid to do that. The daily Blic is reporting this on Friday, adding that one of them also carried “enough narcotics to put him in jail for several years.” According to the newspaper, the three Croats, who came from the town of Split – Ante Firic and Damir Tovarovic among them – received EUR 10,000 to come to Belgrade and fight. The paper’s source with the Interior Ministry (MUP) did not wish to reveal who made the payment, to avoid influencing the investigation.
Another Belgrade daily, Vecernje Novosti, writes on Friday that at least 100 people took part in organizing the fight that took place during the 156th football derby in the capital. According to this report, “some foreign services, whose members have lately significantly increased their presence in our country,” were also involved.
Ante Firic was seriously injured during the incidents and is now being treated at Belgrade’s military clinic VMA, for a stab wound in his back and a haematoma on his brain. According to available information, he has several convictions for racketeering, and is known in Croatia for brutally beating a restaurateur from the island of Hvar, Frano Zuvelo, along with his brother Sandro Firic.
The daily said that at least six Croatian citizens took part in the rioting, including Damir Tovarovic, a former Croatian martial arts champion.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reacted to the violence in Belgrade by saying that “all those who took part organizing and causing it” would be held responsible, including any citizens of Croatia.
The brawl erupted between two rival Partizan fan groups. Several people suffered head injuries and burns from torches. Some fans were stripped before being kicked out of the stands as riot police intervened with batons.
Clashes between Partizan and Red Star fans have been common for one of the world’s most intense soccer rivalries.
The result sees Red Star maintain a nine-point advantage at the top of thetable over their neighbours, with just eight games of the season left to play.
(b92, Daily Mail, 15.12.2017)
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