Red Star Belgrade barred from entering Kosovo for cup game

Mitrovica - Red Star Belgrade, Serbia's leading football team, was banned Wednesday from entering Kosovo where it was to play a Serbia Cup match against a local team.

Majority ethnic Albanian Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008, in a move Belgrade still refuses to recognise.

Kosovo's minority ethnic Serbs remain loyal to Belgrade.

Kosovo Trepca, a team made of ethnic Serb players, take part in Serbia Cup and should have hosted Red Star Belgrade in the last 16.

But, Kosovo authorities said they had prevented a bus with Red Star players to enter Kosovo at the northern Jarinje border crossing, where strong police forces were deployed.

"We were banned from entering despite FIFA recommendations to allow the match to be played," Red Star director Zvezdan Terzic told Serbia's state-run RTS television.

"Kosovo institutions turned a deaf ear to this recommendation."

The match will be played on Thursday in Belgrade, he said.

Terzic added that he was surprised even more by Pristina decision since Trepca plays Serbia regional league matches in Mitrovica, in Kosovo.

Erold Salihu, the secretary general of the Kosovo Football Federation, argued that in Kosovo "there were never competitions" under the auspices of the Serbia Federation.

"We will always allow the arrival of Red Star or Partizan for a friendly or a humanitarian match," Salihu said quoted by RTS.