Serbia to shun Belgrade for qualifier

Serbia will try to move their next World Cup home qualifier against Belgium on October 12 to the northern city of Novi Sad to avoid a hostile reception by tribal home fans in Belgrade, coach Sinisa Mihajlovic said on Tuesday.

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Serbia to shun Belgrade for qualifier
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Clashes between police and Serbian fans after the abandoned Italy vs Serbia Euro 2012 qualifier at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, Italy, 12 October 2010

Serbia were supported by a frenetic 15,000 crowd in Novi Sad in their 6-1 rout of Wales last week, whereas they have been subject to attacks from warring fans of rival Belgrade clubs in the Balkan country's capital.

Former defender Mihajlovic is optimistic that UEFA and the Belgian Football Association will allow a change of venue.

"It's up to the Belgians to accept the change and UEFA to approve it and if they do we will play in Novi Sad, if not we will have no choice but to stick to Belgrade as originally scheduled," the 43-year old told Belgrade media.

"The players and I have asked our own FA to move the fixture to Novi Sad because we are fed up of being jeered and insulted in Belgrade, where visiting teams feel more at home than we do.

"I don't want our rivals to have that advantage on our own turf because we don't have that privilege when we are away."

Serbia have been given a torrid time by their fans in Belgrade, either in Red Star's Marakana stadium or Partizan's nearby ground, throughout their dreadful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Partizan goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic has been especially targeted by Red Star fans during the national team's games, after joining the Serbian champions in 2010 having played for their cross-town rivals in the early stages of his career.

The 29-year old keeper was attacked by Red Star supporters several hours before Serbia's Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy in Genoa, when Serbian fans caused a riot and forced the game to be abandoned after seven minutes by throwing flares at the home crowd and police.

Jeers and insults by 5,000 fans in Serbia's friendly against Ireland in Belgrade last month was the final straw for former international defender Mihajlovic, who had previously suffered three defeats in as many close-season friendlies after taking over in May.

"It's not that we want to close the book on Belgrade but I don't know what can happen to us here," he said.

"We never know how many people will turn up and if they will support us or the visiting team. It affects my young players, especially when the going gets tough and if we are jeered the next time we play in Belgrade, we won't come back here as long as I am in charge.

"If we play against Belgium in Belgrade and all goes well, we will be at home to Croatia here too while we will certainly play the other games outside the capital because fans in other cities crave to see us in action."

Serbia top the group on goal difference with four points from their opening two games after holding Scotland to a 0-0 draw in Glasgow before the drubbing of Wales.They are away to neighbours Macedonia on October 16.

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