BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia's government formed a high-level task force to combat fan violence on Thursday as the country's coaches and players still deny that black English players were racially abused during an ill-tempered under-21 match.
"The recent events call for urgent action," said Serbian Sports Minister Alisa Maric, who also urged restraint in punishing the national federation for the incidents during Tuesday's match.
The government said that the newly-formed task force, which will first probe Tuesday's events, will be headed by the country's top officials, including Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.
Serbia was charged by UEFA on Wednesday with misconduct over racial abuse its fans allegedly hurled at England players from before kickoff in Krusevac. Both federations also face sanctions over a brawl between the teams that erupted after the European Under-21 Championship qualifying match that England won 1-0 with an injury-time goal.
The Serbian football federation has denied racism allegations during the match, but the English Football Association insisted its players were subjected to racial abuse, missiles and provocation throughout the game. England said it might stop sending teams to Serbia.
But Serbia U-21 coach Aleksandar Jankovic said the English are overreacting.
"They started this claim of racism because that's the most sensitive issue," Jankovic told Vecernje Novosti newspaper. "I did not see racism in Krusevac, and I was there on the field from the first minute (of the match) to the last second of the brawl.