Among Qatar’s most notorious World Cup football fans, Serbian Ultras beat rivals to death with iron bars
FROM raids on the pitch to mass brawls and death threats, Serbian hooligans could create carnage when they land in Qatar for the World Cup.
Groups of die-hard hooligans are closely linked to football in Serbia – and they have been known to ruthlessly attack players on the pitch and storm opposition stands when the game turns against them.
With their first game today against Brazil – the last time the two sides met at a World Cup – the match ended in violence.
Serbian and Brazilian fans were pictured brawling in the stands in Russia in 2018 – and Qatari organizers will want to avoid such scenes.
Rogue companies in the Balkan state have creepy names like The Gravediggers, Head Hunters, Zulu Warriors and the Red Devils.
And one of their most vicious leaders is known as “Ivan the Terrible”.
Tracing their lineage to the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Serbian football hooligans are renowned for their tough-as-nails attitude and love of violence.
In the past, the Ultras have killed rival supporters – including a Toulouse fan in 2009 who was beaten to death with iron bars and bicycle chains.
And with fears of a repeat of the 2018 carnage against Brazil, Serbia will also face bitter rivals Switzerland next week, which could also fuel the possibility of violence.
Qatar, however, are taking no chances with the mess – recruiting a multinational police team to try and control the fans.
Belgrade football authorities have been keen to clamp down on violence – but top-flight domestic matches can still be marred by violence.
Serbian thug businesses are strongly linked to far-right politics, neo-Nazi sympathies and organized crime.
Cops raided groups of football fans linked to clubs Partizan and Red Star – arresting 17 people linked to drugs, murder and other “monstrous crimes” in February 2021.
And while the crackdown continues – with Serbian football keen to shed the unwanted reputation – insiders have warned that the companies still wield “terrible power” in the state.
In 2012, Ivan Bagdanov – an incendiary hooligan leader linked to Serbia’s far-right paramilitaries – forced the abandonment of a Euro qualifier between Serbia and Italy in Genoa after he attempted to attack rival supporters and the police.
‘Ivan the Terrible’ Bagdanov rallied fans to launch live flares and firecrackers onto the pitch as the players warmed up and ordered them to break down barriers separating them from Italian supporters while taunting the police.
Serbian hooligans are particularly notorious for throwing live bangers at players who have switched sides and invading pitches when matches don’t go to plan.
Some are believed to have ties to local politicians and private security firms that rely on them to do their dirty work, according to Balkan Insight.
We are the black sheep of society. Real Rebels…We don’t like the mainstream in any form
These self-proclaimed hooligans are expected to show up in force at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Tensions could boil over when Serbia take on Switzerland at Stadium 974 on December 2.
When the rivals last met in 2018, Serbian fans were recorded chanting ‘Kill the Albanians’ and wearing T-shirts of Serbian war crimes general Ratko Mladic in an impassioned snub towards two Albanians from the Swiss team.
Kosovo fought Serbia in a bitter war for independence in 1999 that resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and soldiers on both sides.
In 2014, a mass brawl broke out between fans during a Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania.
Fans stormed Partizan’s stadium in Belgrade and attacked the players before riot police were called in to break up the bloody brawl, forcing the game to be called off.
Bagdanov’s supporters could be joined by their bitter rivals known as “The Gravediggers” in Serbian.
Fans have been known to plan their violent parades days before a match and have repeatedly said they would die for their club, according to Vice TV.
Some have their own keys to local stadiums and describe themselves as “knights” of “principles and honour”.
“We are society’s black sheep. Real rebels… We don’t like the mainstream in any form,” one ultra told Vice TV.
“We just want to tell our story to the world, to the Serbian people, that we are the best… We have principles and knightly honor. We have a code of honor and behavior.”
In 2013, die-hard fans of a Serbian third-division side dug a grave on their own turf, a thinly veiled threat to the players.
The hooligans – who snuck out after a game – pinned a crucifix to the ground that read ‘second division or this’.
And earlier this year, Rangers fans were ambushed in Belgrade when Serbian hooligans attacked them ahead of a Europa League game.
Traveling supporters had already been warned not to travel around Belgrade in small groups or late at night for fear of trouble.
But that didn’t stop a section of supporters from being attacked outside the city’s Metropol Palace hotel by a group dressed in black and throwing bottles.
People inside the hotel captured the action as Gers fans tried to defend themselves with chairs and other objects as sirens wailed in the background.
The incident lasted for several minutes with no sign of intervention from hotel staff or police.
A group of players clashed with stewards when they were barred from joining their supporters following their side’s 3-0 Europa League defeat at Ibrox.