Brazilian midfielder Everton Luiz was the target of racist abuse during the Belgrade derby match between Partizan and FK Rad on Sunday, leaving the pitch in tears as his team battled to a 1-0 victory on the day.
Rad supporters, who in the past have been known for their nationalist ultra-right behaviour, directed monkey chants and other racist taunts at Luiz throughout the match. They also displayed a racist banner in the stands until the match referee intervened, ordering its removal. The match was stopped while stewards removed the banner, but warnings to fans issued over the Stadion Karlj Petar Prvi’s PA system failed to stop the abuse.
Luiz was targeted throughout the match, and following the final whistle, he reacted by making an obscene gesture towards the fans, sparking a brawl between Rad and Partizan players. Staff from both teams broke up the fighting, but Luiz left the pitch in tears.
On Monday, the Serbian Football Association acted quickly, suspending Rad’s stadium in Belgrade for their fans’ repugnant behaviour.
“Due to the misbehaviour of their fans who racially insulted a player, Rad’s stadium has been suspended until the Serbian Football Association (FSS) passes a verdict,” said league commissioner Vladimir Bulatovic.
“The suspension means no first division games will be played at the venue until a final decision is made and disciplinary proceedings have been opened against all parties involved in the incident.”
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Serbia’s FA have opened an investigation, but FIFA could get involved as well to punish Rad for their supporters’ behaviour. According to their laws, “punishments for first offences bring a warning, fine or clubs being forced to play games in empty stadiums. A second offence, or one deemed ‘serious,’ could result in demotion, a deduction of points or expulsion from a tournament.”
Luiz issued a statement following the match.
“My family and I feel at home in Serbia and this is why I could not stop the tears after the game,” he said, according to Reuters. “I took 90 minutes of racist abuse and other insults from the terraces and thereafter I found myself in a cauldron of emotionless individuals who charged at me when they should have protected me. I want to forget this, refocus on football and urge everyone to say ‘No’ to racism.”