FIFA has launched an investigation against the Football Association of Serbia, after a photo surfaced of a flag inside the team’s locker room depicting the Serbian flag imposed over an outline of the independent country of Kosovo.
The photo of the flag, reportedly from before Serbia’s World Cup match against Brazil on Thursday, shows the outline of Kosovo, which has been an independent state since 2008, filled in with the flag of Serbia and with the words “No Surrender” superimposed on it.
Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Hajrulla Çeku called the image “disgraceful” in a tweet, saying it displayed “hateful, xenophobic and genocidal messages towards Kosova” while also exploiting the World Cup platform.
The world football governing body said the proceedings were opened on the basis of Article 11 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and Article 4 of the Regulations for the FIFA World Cup 2022, which covers infractions of “offensive gestures, signs or language” and “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature.”
Çeku and Kosovo’s soccer federation (FFK) filed a formal complaint to FIFA for the “aggressive action of the national team of Serbia.”
“FFK strongly condemns the aggressive action against the Republic of Kosovo shown by Serbia in the ‘Qatar 2022,’” FFK said in a statement on Friday. “The World Cup is an event of joy and unity and should send messages of hope and peace, not messages of hatred. We call FIFA to take action against such actions.”
The Football Association of Serbia did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
More background: Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, backed by the United States, Britain and most EU member states, but its membership of the United Nations is blocked by Russia, Serbia’s traditional ally.
Serbia, which lost 2-0 to Brazil on Thursday, is next scheduled to play on Monday against Group G opponent Cameroon.