The Euro 2024 qualifier match between Romania and Kosovo in Bucharest had to be suspended for around 45 minutes after a section of home fans were heard shouting pro-Serbia chants. The qualifying fixture, which took place today at the National Arena, was stopped in the 18th minute with the score line being 0-0. Some Romanian fans were heard chanting “Serbia Serbia”. A section of the crowd even demonstrated a banner which read “Kosovo is Serbia”. According to Reuters, a footballer confronted the supporters who displayed the controversial poster. Romanian skipper Nicolae Stanciu reportedly attempted to pacify the home fans.
In a bid to avert any kind of danger, French referee Willy Delajod responded to the situation by taking the players off the pitch. “The match has resumed after play was suspended due to discriminatory behaviour from some supporters,” UEFA said on their website following the incident.
Kosovo and Serbia have had a hostile relationship for quite some time. The situation went haywire after Kosovo unilaterally announced independence from Serbia back in February 2008. Kosovo’s independence is acknowledged by 100 countries, including the United Kingdom and the majority of European Union members, but not Romania. Apart from Romania, there are a handful of EU countries which does not recognise Kosovo’s status as an independent nation.
The Kosovo football team have been featuring in friendly games for the past 80 years. They were formally accepted as a member of the UEFA in 2016.
The Euro 2024 qualifying match between Romania and Kosovo started, following the removal of the controversial banner. Had the match been abandoned, Romania would have forfeited the game as a 3-0 defeat. A loss would have seriously ruined their chances of qualifying for the next Euro edition scheduled to be played in Germany in 2024. UEFA is now expected to punish Romania in a disciplinary case which will be started for making a banned political statement during the match.
Nicolae Stanciu opened the scoring for Romania in the 83rd minute of the match. Romanian winger Valentin Mihail earned an insurance goal for his side 10 minutes later. Kosovo striker Vedat Muriqi was given marching orders for a second yellow card after a foul on opposition midfielder Vladimir Screciu right before the half-time.
The 2-0 victory helped Romania to remain unbeaten in the six-team Group I with four rounds of matches still to be played. The Romanian team are currently placed in second position with 12 points to their name. Kosovo, on the other hand, have not been able to pick up a win yet in the qualifiers. Fifth-placed Kosovo have till now claimed four points. Switzerland are currently the table toppers having collected 14 points from six games. The top two sides in the standings in November will qualify for the finals tournament.