Serbian fans boo and throw flares, prompting referee to halt a match with Italy after six minutes of play.
|Ivan Bogdanov, arrested by Italian police, is considered to be the ringleader of the riots in Genoa [AFP]|
Serbia has blamed far-right groups for hooliganism that marred an Italy-Serbia football match a day earlier.
Tuesday’s match being played in the Italian city of Genoa was abandoned within seven minutes after visiting Serbian fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch and at Italian fans during the European championship qualifier.
Clashes with police continued into the night and 16 people were hospitalised.
Ivica Dacic, the Serbian interior minister, said on Wednesday that the institgators were part of the same far-right group responsible for anti-gay riots in Belgrade on the weekend.
He said neo-Nazis have infiltrated fan groups to spread their staunch anti-European Union agenda and to undermine the national government.
“Generally, those are extremist groups that existed for years and are registered in police files and their members have been arrested in the past,” Dacic said.
“They have various goals and are looking for various reasons for violence.”
The Serbian football association said that the violence was premeditated and probably organised from Belgrade.
The Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA, opened its investigation into the violence on Wednesday. Possible sanctions against Serbia range from a large fine to exclusion from the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, and Michel Platini, president of UEFA, both condemned the violence.
“I was shocked by the images of yesterday’s Italy-Serbia match,” Platini said in a statement.
The UEFA hearing is scheduled for October 28.
Ivan Bogdanov, the alleged ringleader was arrested after being found hiding in a bus to Serbia. Although he had his face covered by a mask during the rioting in Genoa, he was identified by tattoos on his arms.
The rioting in Genoa is the most recent of a series of incidents involving Serbian fans. Last September, a French fan was killed after he was attacked in Belgrade.
Serbian football has been marred by violence for two decades, but the violence has only recently begun to spread beyond the country’s boarders on a large scale.
“This is one of the darkest days in the history of Serbia’s football,” Savo Milosevic, the renowned former Serbia striker, said.
“The government has been completely disinterested in sports and its problems over the last 20 years, hence Serbia is now paying a heavy price for the failure to tackle hooliganism swiftly and decisively,” he said.