Tensions between Balkan rivals spill into Euro 2024 – and beyond

Presence of Serbia, Croatia and Albania at same finals has led to allegedly offensive behaviour from fans – and a headache for Uefa

Given a 24-team European Championship is hardly light on workload it may have stretched resources at Uefa when, at different points last week, two additional countries weighed in. Neither Kosovo nor North Macedonia qualified to compete in Germany but felt they had been given no choice. Both football associations needed to be heard after hearing their nations degraded in the stands and, in one case, on the pitch during the tournament’s opening week.

Where to begin after two-thirds of a group stage that has, predictably, given the lie to notion that football and political sentiment sit apart? Serbia, Albania and Croatia had never appeared at the same senior finals so perhaps it is no surprise the Balkan countries have racked up an extensive rap sheet over the past seven days. They have not necessarily had to cross paths for longstanding tensions to be inflamed, nor for some of their neighbours to have been dragged into the muck by provocations that too often rear up in the melting pot of a football stadium.

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