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Serbia charged over locker room Kosovo flag at World Cup

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The Serbian soccer federation was charged by FIFA on Saturday for hanging a political banner about neighboring independent state Kosovo in the locker room before playing Brazil at the World Cup.

It showed a map of Serbia that included the territory of its former province, which has been an independent state for nearly 15 years, and the slogan “No Surrender.”

Photos circulated of the banner draped over the lockers of Milos Veljkovic and Andrija Zivkovic ahead of the team’s 2-0 loss to Brazil on Thursday in Qatar.

Kosovo’s soccer federation formally complained to FIFA and its sports minister, Hajrulla Ceku, described the image as using the World Cup to promote “hateful, xenophobic and genocidal messages.”

FIFA cited a section of its disciplinary code that covers misconduct including “offensive gestures, signs or language” and “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature.”

Soccer’s governing body gave no timetable for a verdict, though Serbia next plays on Monday against Cameroon.

Since Kosovo was made a member of FIFA and UEFA in 2016, the European soccer body has ensured for security reasons that its national teams cannot be drawn with Serbia or Bosnia- Herzegovina in qualifying groups for the World Cup and European Championship.

The issue of Kosovo’s independence sparked a 1998-99 war in which about 13,000 people died. Serbia launched a brutal crackdown to curb a separatist rebellion by the territory’s ethnic Albanians. NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to end the war.

Kosovo unilaterally broke away from Serbia in 2008. The Serbian government, with support from China and Russia, has refused to acknowledge Kosovo’s statehood. The United States and most of its European allies recognize Kosovo as an independent country.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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