The pomp with which the banners “Kosovo je Srbija” (Kosovo is Serbia) were displayed in the last match between Romania and Kosovo created the impression that important Russian and Serbian state elements were involved in this ugly and insulting rowdy spectacle, writes the Octopus Institute, reports KosovaPress.
“The size of the banner, the mysterious way in which it escaped the control of judicial and security authorities on September 12 at Bucharest’s Arena Națională (National Arena) stadium, and especially the selection of the banner’s content are strong indications of involvement.” possible Russian and Serbian intelligence agencies, with the aim of provoking Kosovo’s representative team and causing incidents locally and abroad that would then affect Kosovo’s general image in the world,” Octopus says.
To support these claims, the Institute has published an analysis of the connections of the fan group “Ultras Tricolorii”, the ultra-nationalist and far-right politician George Simion and the party he leads, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians, as well as Russian intelligence services.
The Romanian hooligans who placed the banner “Kosovo je Srbija” (Kosovo is Serbia) during the football match between Romania and Kosovo are members of the group “Ultras Tricolorii”. This group is known for its nationalist and anti-Albanian views. They have been involved in several violent incidents at football matches in Romania and abroad.
During the match there was no lack of insults and comments. Within 17 minutes, the match in the Romanian capital’s stadium was suspended after a banner with demeaning messages was seen behind the goal, inciting hatred and nationalist chants. This sparked outrage among the Kosovo players, who refused to continue the game in this manner and the match was abandoned. Although the match resumed after 50 minutes and ended with Kosovo losing to Romania, UEFA announced that disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against the Romanian Football Federation for offensive messages and racist behavior.
The use of the “Kosovo is Serbia” banner during the match between Romania and Kosovo was also condemned by both the Romanian Football Federation and the Kosovo Football Federation. The Romanian Football Federation launched an investigation into the incident and promised to take action against the hooligans responsible.
It is not clear how many members the Ultras Tricolorii have, but they are a well-organized and well-financed group. They have their own websites and social media accounts and often travel to matches abroad to support the Romanian national team.
The group’s views on Kosovo are shared by many Romanian nationalists. They believe Kosovo is rightfully part of Serbia and oppose its independence. At football matches, they often display banners and chants expressing these views.
As in several other countries in the Balkans and beyond, ultranationalist groups and football hooligans are closely linked to political interests. In Romania, some evidence suggests that there may be a link between the “Ultras Tricolorii” hooligans and George Simion, the Romanian far-right politician. It is suspected that George Simion has links with the Russian FSB after he was seen meeting with former Russian agent Mark Tkaciuk. Despite his appearance and ideology, George Simion is one of Romania’s most famous names. As the founder of the right-wing party three years ago, he is considered a threat in Romania’s upcoming presidential elections.
By his political opponents, Simion and his party are seen as identical to the ideology of former Romanian Prime Minister Ion Antonescu’s dictator, who was responsible for the deaths of Romanian Jews during the Holocaust. He remains known as a propagator of conspiracy theories, many elements of which serve to spread Russian propaganda.
In 2019, Simion was photographed with members of the “Ultras Tricolorii” at a football match. He has also been seen at their rallies, events and functions.
In addition, some members of the “Ultras Tricolorii ” have expressed their support for Simion and his party, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR). For example, in 2020, a group of members of the “Ultras Tricolorii” were arrested for attacking a political rally organized by AUR.
The pattern of AUR’s association with the hooligans of the “Ultras Tricolorii” strongly resembles the close cooperation between Serbian nationalist radicals and fan groups in the 1990s, as well as today. Politicians in Serbia used the violent tendency of football hooligans to achieve their political goals, while the hooligans, on the other hand, enjoyed the protection and immunity of law enforcement authorities and freely carried out their activities.
To challenge the authority of the state and advance its political agenda, George Simion and his Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) party need the violence and brutality of hooligans and criminal groups, as in the case of the “Ultras Tricolorii.” It should be noted that the “Ultras Tricolorii” were involved in many violent events and were banned from stadiums for a while, but then implemented reforms and allegedly declared that they would renounce violence.
The Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) has an ultranationalist ideological base and promises the unification of all Romanians in its public discourse. This party also promotes the idea of Romania leaving the European Union, a very controversial position. AUR is known as an anti-establishment party and has managed to attract an electorate dissatisfied with traditional Romanian politics. AUR’s official website pompously promotes the four pillars as the values of this political entity: family, nation, Christian faith, and freedom. AUR recognizes its members as “protectors of the church.” AUR was founded in 2021.
Otherwise, the match between Kosovo and Romania that took place on September 12 was valid for the qualifications for the European Championship (Germany 2024). /KosovaPress/