Discriminatory chanting from Romania supporters towards their opponents, Kosovo, brought to a halt an international football match on Tuesday evening.
Just 18 minutes had passed in the Romania vs Kosovo match, with the scores 0-0 at the time, when the French referee Willy Delajod sent players from both teams back to the changing rooms.
Why was Romania vs Kosovo suspended?
Romania fans chanted “Serbia Serbia” and displayed banners reading the message “Kosovo is Serbia.”
Look at this scene in Bucharest when the ultras chanted "Kosovo is Serbia" and used banners. Both Teams were sent to the dressing room, and the match continued only after 50 minutes. In the end, it was Romania who won 2-0 and maintained the second placepic.twitter.com/Zrc6pLvuqy
— BabaGol (@BabaGol_) September 13, 2023
Kosovo is in Southeast Europe, bordered by Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. In 2008, it declared independence from Serbia. It is recognised by more than 100 countries, but not by Romania. Only five countries that belong to the European Union do not recognise Kosovo, Romania being one of them. The others are Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, and Greece.
The Romania vs Kosovo match was a UEFA European Championships qualifier. It was interrupted by nearly an hour, with UEFA release the following statement:
“The match has resumed after play was suspended due to discriminatory behaviour from some supporters.”
UEFA will now open a disciplinary case against Romania because their supporters made a “prohibited political statement at a game.”
After the game's resumption, Romania scored twice to move into second place in Group I with 12 points. They now sit two points behind Switzerland, who lead the group, with Kosovo sitting fifth.
Romania and Kosovo's Euro 2024 qualifier in Bucharest was a feisty affair.
The match was forced to be suspended for 50 minutes, as players clashed with the crowd who chanted 'Serbia, Serbia' and displayed signs saying 'Kosovo is Serbia'. pic.twitter.com/BcKaELlj05
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) September 13, 2023
Romania captain talks to ultras to stop chanting
Interestingly, during the break in play, Romania's captain, Nicolae Stanciu, tried to speak to his own supporters and urge them to stop the chanting.
Had the referee deemed the game impossible to continue at the Arena Națională in Bucharest, Romania would have forfeited it as a 3-0 loss.
Stanciu has recently signed for Damac in Saudi Arabia. He played in the Saudi Pro League once before, with Ah-Ahli, before spells at Slavia Prague in Czechia and Wuhan Three Towns in China.
According to Antena 3, who broadcasted the match in Romania, Stanciu was told by the ultras responsible for the chanting: “Nicule, we shouldn't have played this match!”
Who are Romania ultras responsible for pro-Serbia chanting?
According to reports, those chanting are from a far-right background, spouting the rhetoric of the far-right Romanian party Alliance for the Union of the Romanians. The popular phrase is “United under the Tricoloured Flag” and they seek to oppose the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, and the independence of neighbouring Moldova from Romania.
The chanting has been widely condemned across Romania. The National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) said that “geopolitical messages have no business in sports.”
“Politics should manifest itself outside the stadiums,” it continued, also referencing the potential sanctions Romania could face.
“Playing without spectators means a massive financial loss,” the Council's president, Csaba Asztalos said.
How will UEFA respond to Romania ultras pro-Serbia chanting?
UEFA could force Romania's next home match to be played without spectators given this is not the first incident of such chanting.
Romania's national team recently received a €15,000 fine for xenophobic chanting in a game against Belarus.
The ultras group who held the "Kosovo is Serbia" banner was circled by the riot police after the end of the Romania vs Kosovo match, with all its members identified. pic.twitter.com/JxQF4nhMeW
— Emanuel Roşu (@Emishor) September 12, 2023
Romanian authorities made great efforts to identify those involved in the chanting, according to reliable local reporter Emanuel Rosu.
UEFA's reaction will be fascinating.