Political tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have been higher in recent months than usual in previous years. Once again, the problems in the relations between the two countries spilled over into the sport. This time it was won by the Kosovo boxing team in the amateur category.
“Welcome and be our guests here in Belgrade”, the International Association of Amateur Boxers invites fans and athletes to an impressive video at the World Boxing Championships, which will take place in the capital of Serbia on Tuesday.
But it will most likely take place without the participation of boxers from Kosovo. Serbia has repeatedly refused to allow them on its territory.
On Sunday, the national team of three boxers and two coaches tried for the third time to cross the common border, but once again to no avail. Teams had to register on the site before midnight Sunday. “It just occurred to us at that time. Our participation is therefore unlikely,” said Ismet Krasniqi, president of the Kosovo Olympic Committee. “Our representatives have been victims of the politics of Serbia,” he added.
Serbia does not recognize the independence of Kosovo, which separated from it in 2008, and does not accept its membership in sports federations.
“We have been abused”
However, even if the Kosovar athletes make it to the championship site, the tournament organizers have told them that they will only be able to compete under the neutral flag of the AIBA (International Association of Amateur Boxers), which organizes the championships. They will not be able to use the national flag or symbols.
“The organizing committee must respect the AIBA charter and create a level playing field for all members of the association,” Krasniqi said. “We have been hijacked for purposes that have nothing to do with sport or fair play,” lamented the president of the Kosovo Olympic Committee.
AIBA chief Umar Kremlev also sided with the European state’s youngest team, calling the situation unacceptable and refusing to use sport for political ends. He asked the organizing committee, in cooperation with the local authorities, to organize the entry of the national team into Kosovo.
“The Kosovo Boxing Federation has been a full member of the association since 2014 and I expect them to participate in the championship and their members to be treated the same as everyone else. We want to create an environment family for all boxers, boxing has no borders, “said a spokesperson for the International Boxing Association. However, he failed to convince the organizers of the championship.
Serbs also criticized by the IOC
While Krasniqi writes in a letter to AIBA about whether Kosovo’s athletes should compete under their own flag or under a neutral flag, the initial problem remains. The athletes have not yet crossed the border with Serbia.
The national team traveled to Belgrade by car, but were always returned to the border post. The team has already attempted to enter Serbia even dressed in clothing without state symbols, the Free Europe radio station reported.
The choice of Serbia as the host country was then called into question in a press release from the International Olympic Committee. “We had no information on the circumstances, organization or contractual partners of AIBA in connection with this championship. It turns out that he did not follow the IOC recommendations that we gave. to international federations “, declared the IOC.
He has long criticized the boxing association for the way it is run and for corruption. He even suspended recognition from AIBA, and at the Tokyo Summer Games, boxing was overseen by an IOC task force headed by International Gymnastics Federation President Morinari Watanab.
“We will definitely learn from the situation,” Kremlev assured InsideTheGames, indicating that more boxing events will not take place in Serbia in the future.
“If Kosovo is the only one to compete without national symbols, it is a clear signal that politics has won over sport, the spirit of fair play and the Olympic idea”, concluded Krasniqi, president of the Kosovo Olympic Committee.
In recent months, the borders between the two countries have been closed or only partially opened. After the September agreement, the situation calmed down. Kosovar police have left the border now in charge of NATO peacekeepers as part of the KFOR mission.
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