Bloodthirsty pro-Putin Serbian ultras have more reason than EVER to launch attacks on England Euros fans, expert warns

TERRIFYING Serbian hooligans could use the political carnage plaguing Europe to launch a chilling attack on England Euros fans, an expert warns.

Professor Martha Newson fears the bloodthirsty pro-Putin Serbs could strike by using the Ukraine war and their far-right views as a twisted excuse to unleash carnage on the streets of Germany.

GettyPolice in riot gear face ultras at a Euro 2012 qualifying match between Italy and Serbia[/caption]

A masked Serbian fan fans burns the flag of Albania during a match between the two countries

AFPSerbian gendarmerie officers are often deployed at matches to ensure safety[/caption]

REUTERSSerbian ultras are seen as some of the hardest football fans in Europe due to their passion and commitment to their nation and club side[/caption]

AFP or licensorsSerbian ultras using whips to attack rival fans in the stadium[/caption]

ReutersFans have been seen getting arrested after topless pitch side brawls that left them with bloodied up faces and marked bodies[/caption]

GettyA Serbian fan holding up a flare at a Austria versus Serbia friendly on June 4, 2024[/caption]

From bloody pitch invasions to mass brawls and murders, the bloodthirsty Serbian ultras are known for creating unhinged carnage when they descend on the footballing world.

A huge number of die-hard Balkan hooligans have become intertwined with Serbian and Eastern European culture over the years with many incidents kicking off at major footballing events.

With Germany next up on the footballing calendar, many fear Europe’s hardest fans could quickly cause the tournament to erupt.

Serbia has close relations with Russia that date back centuries through a common Slavic origin and the Orthodox Christian religion.

Russia was also supportive of Serbia’s attempted coup in Kosovo after the nation claimed independence in 2008.

The West strongly backed Kosovo in their fight for independence angering Serbs in a similar manner to how Putin’s assaults have been strongly condemned by Nato.

Their fans go by several names – such as The Gravediggers, Head Hunters, Zulu Warriors, and the Red Devils.

And are known for a sick love of violence and a taste of rival’s blood – using a range of weapons such as baseball bats, belts, pyrotechnics, knives and guns.

With England’s first match against Serbia on June 16 already being labelled one of the most “high-risk” games of the tournament.

Dr Martha Newson, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Greenwich, has growing concerns over how the situation in a war-torn Eastern Europe could impact the tournament.

She told The Sun: “There’s a potential for violence, especially with the Russian Ukrainian war and people having expectations about Serbian fans tying into those conceptions of East versus West.

“Serbian hardcore fans tend to be more likely to be on the far right so there is potential for the Russian conflict and allegiance to come out and play out among fans on the global stage.”

Tracing their lineage back to the Balkan war of the 1990s, Serbian football hooligans are renowned for their love of the game.

The chief executive of the county’s top side Red Star Belgrade once famously said Red Star is “not just a football team, it is an ideology, a philosophy and a national symbol”.

In Eastern Europe I think organised violence has a bigger presence and that’s probably something German officials are considering when they’re labelling (Serbia games) as high risk

Martha NewsonAssociate Professor of Psychology at the University of Greenwich

This belief has led to a barrage of controversial and fatal moves at matches against anyone who goes against the “national identity”.

Stadiums in Serbia have developed into breeding grounds of militia recruitment, say experts, due to this sense of pride.

During the Yugoslavian wars in the 1990s it has been said that football hooligans were some of the first men to be sent to the frontlines.

Dr Newson says this has created a formidable legacy.

She said: “Often in football, people are playing out their national identities almost like a theatre performance.

“They’re bringing everything into a ritual arena, so it is often an opportunity, or perceived as an opportunity to sort of flex the muscles.

“So the reports coming in around the Serbian fans, I think, is a mixture of their legacy and their reputation.”

England’s ‘high risk’ Serbian clash

ENGLAND kick off their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia on Sunday, 16 in a match where Southgate’s men start as a clear favourite on the pitch despite a potential storm brewing off of it.

Due to rowdy Three Lions fans and ruthless Serbian ultras flocking to Germany this weekend warnings have been placed all over the game as it looks to be one of the most volatile of the tournament.

German police have claimed “up to 400 or 500 ­violence-seeking ­Serbian ­hooligans will travel to ­Germany” ahead of Sunday’s fixture.

With Peter Both, the chief of police in Gelsenkirchen, saying: “I guess the biggest challenge for us will be to identify violent, disruptive groups at an early stage, to separate them from peaceful and law-abiding fans, that will be our biggest challenge.”

Roughly 500,000 Serbs live in Germany and there are fears some may head to Gelsenkirchen specifically to cause trouble around the England game.

As one East European media platform has already chillingly vowed daily updates from the Euros “where we will cover the matches and, above all, events outside the stadium”.

Up to 1,300 police officers will be deployed on matchday around the grounds with extra surveillance at fan zones and city centres as part of the massive security operation at the Euros.

It is understood British police “spotters” and plain-clothed officers will also be on hand to watch England fans at every match.

But a special focus will be at the Trabrennbahn racecourse where there is a 40,000 fan zone by Three Lions followers for the Serbia game.

Dr Martha Newson says: “Fans go with the mentality of going into battle but that battle is only there if they perceive a threat.

“So the England fans going out there if they perceive the Serbians as a potential threat or risk that’s when they’re gonna have a battle mindset and same for the Serbians.”

However, Germany’s experience with hosting major widescale sporting events means they are well prepared – which could put off some hooligans from trying to start problems.

A UK law enforcement source told the i: “If you were going to hold this tournament at this time anywhere apart from the UK, then you would choose Germany.

“But it’s a complex picture and unfortunately England fans are still regarded as fair game, or even desirable targets, by opposing hooligan groupings.

“There is particular concern about the Serbia game.”

Issues have already been caused by Serbs after 8,000 flare-wielding fans attempted to storm their own team’s training session in Germany on Wednesday.

Cops were attacked with the roaring flares and forced to tackle a pitch invader at the Serbian team’s base.

Ivana Jeremic, an investigative journalist who has extensively covered the link between football and the culture in Serbia, also told The Sun: “Serbian ultras have been influenced and controlled by state actors and criminals.

“In the 90s, they bolstered paramilitary ranks. In peacetime, they have shaped public opinion and participated in significant political events.”

This “war” mind-frame has continued on in the past three decades with ex-ultra members stating they were made to “bleed” in order to become a fully-fledged fan.

This siege mentality would see fans forced to attack others and deal with whatever consequences came their way as part of a harrowing initiation ceremony.

It resulted in riot police being deployed at almost every match in the country with batons and semi-automatic handguns.

One of the ways the Serbian ultra-groups differ from other fan groups across Europe is their meticulous planning of violent acts.

In recent years, they’ve formed a working relationship with the ruling party, allowing them to conduct business relatively unmolested

Ivana JeremicInvestigative journalist

Dr Newson said: “In the UK spontaneous violence is really all that we see nowadays, just a fight, sort of erupting without this sort of planning and scheduling.

“In Eastern Europe I think organised violence has a bigger presence and that’s probably something German officials are considering when they’re labelling (Serbia games) as high risk.”

In 2022, a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime declared Serbia as the most concerning country for hooliganism.

The report mentions how youngsters are often drafted into these ultra groups to act as “foot soldiers” for the ring leaders.

In Belgrade, in order to become a member of the notorious United Force Ultra any newcomer must “stab someone with a knife”.

Elsewhere Principi ultra rookies are tasked with making rival fans bleed to build up trust within the group.

EPAIn a Euro 2016 qualifier Albanian players were seen frantically running off the pitch as Serbian fans ran on and caused carnage[/caption]

ReutersA crazed Serbian fan threw a punch at one of the Albania players[/caption]

Huw Evans AgencyIn 2017, Wales fans were seen fighting with Serbs through the gated barriers[/caption]

A Serbian fan punching a Brazil fan after a brawl in the stands at the 2018 World CupGetty Images – Getty

GettyThe ringleader of the Serbian ultra group dubbed “Ivan the Terrible” Bagdanov[/caption]

APFans holding lit flares at an Austria and Serbia match in June[/caption]

The fearless firms are also heavily linked to far-right politics, Neo-Nazi sympathies, and organised crime – making them a haven for the criminal underworld.

Prompting a culture of racism, drug use, drug selling and gang violence all away from the sport that has been ongoing for decades.

Sasa Djordjevic, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, says hooligans are good for three things outside of football.

Promoting nationalism, drug dealing and private security.

He said: “The first part of their job is to promote a nationalistic narrative in public and spur the rise of nationalism, chauvinism and so on. The second part is drug dealing and the third is private security.

“The first part is important because of politics, and it seems that it is some kind of favour [to politicians], and in return, hooligans get to do their illegal business.”


One of the worst Serbian ultra attacks came when a rival fan was ruthlessly beaten to death.

In 2009, a Toulouse supporter – Brice Taton – was attacked with iron bars and bike chains by Partizan Belgrade hooligans before a match.

A staggering fourteen men were charged, with the ringleaders being sentenced to up to 35 years for the heinous beating.

Rangers fans were also ambushed with glass bottles in Belgrade when hooligans attacked them ahead of a Europa League match a few years ago.

The travelling supporters had already been warned not to travel around Belgrade in small groups or late at night for fear of trouble.

In 2021, cops raided several fan groups linked to clubs Partizan and Red Star Belgrade.

They arrested 17 people on a number of “monstrous” charges including drug and murder crimes.

Serbian ultras have been influenced and controlled by state actors and criminals

Ivana JeremicInvestigative journalist

As in 2013, die-hard fans of a Serbian third-tier side dug a grave on their own pitch in a thinly-veiled threat to players.

The hooligans – who snuck in after a match – pinned a crucifix to the ground which read “second division or this”.

On the international stage, Serbian brutes are just as malicious.

Ivan Bagdanov – a firebrand hooligan leader with links to Serbian far-right paramilitaries – was responsible for forcing a Euros qualifying match between Serbia and Italy to be abandoned In 2012.

He tried to attack rival fans before turning on police and sparking the grisly carnage that led to an all-out war on the pitch.

Nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” Bagdanov rallied his fellow mob to set off live flares onto the pitch as players warmed up.

AFPSerbian Red Star Belgrade supporters let off red flares during their derby match against Partizan Belgrade[/caption]

EPAFans have even been known to set light to opposition team’s kits in the stands[/caption]

EPAEven on the pitch Serbian players are seen as some of the toughest opponents to face physically[/caption]

ReutersThe Serbian Cup Final is seen as one of the most intimidating matches in Europe due to the fans[/caption]

ReutersThe ultra group are famous for their use of flares which cause a thick cloud of smoke to fill the stadium[/caption]

They also tried to break down the barriers separating the two sets of fans.

Several other fights broke out at games across the past decade including a mass brawl with Brazilian supporters at the 2018 Russian World Cup.

Four years earlier at a Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania, another battle kicked off in the stands.

Serb supporters were recorded chanting “Kill the Albanians” and wore T-shirts of Serbian war crimes general Ratko Mladic in a heated snub to two ethnic Albanians in the Swiss squad.

Kosovo fought Serbia in a bitter war for independence in 1999 that resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and soldiers on both sides.

These horror incidents have resulted in several fines and bans.

The latest being when UEFA ordered them to play a 2024 European Championship qualifier in front of an empty stadium last year due to racist chants at a game against Montenegro.

Fans of both sides were said to have traded ethnic-based slurs resulting in Serbia being slapped with a £50,000 fine.

Ivana Jeremic added: “UEFA’s disciplinary decisions frequently highlight issues, with the Serbian National Team being fined for racism and hate speech at international events.”

Serbia’s history with hooligans and the government

IN the 1990s, Yugoslavian governments were said to have started to fear football-going thugs.

Former president Slobodan Milosevic had allowed for thousands of kids to grow up idolising such fans, in turn creating a culture of violence on match days.

As the dangers increased and the ultra groups power soared, Milosevic ordered that the groups elected a leader he could talk to.

A hooligan nicknamed Arkan – or Zeljko Raznatovic – was the first to be elected.

He had a chilling past of robbing banks and escaping prison as well as heading up the notorious Delije ultranationalist fans of Red Star Belgrade for years.

He would order his men to threaten and assault fans who were seen as anti government or anti-Communist.

Milosevic was later called up to fight in the Balkan conflicts as he formed a paramilitary brigade of a 1000 men all from his football clan dubbed Arkan’s Tigers.

He was later indicted by the International Tribunal of War Crimes at the Hague for genocide and known as one of the decades worst war criminals.

Soon after the fighting, football stadiums in the country were filled with chants of “kill yourself Slobodan” aimed at the president.

Until tempers reached boiling point in 2000 when hooligans led the way in violent protests that led to the storming of the Serbian Parliament.

Milosevic resigned straight afterwards as tempers continued to flare.

Rising ultra-nationalism flooded sporting environments in the years after the rioting.

Ivana says this is still a major issue in Serbia today with politicians allowing ultra groups to get away with many heinous crimes in return for political support.

She added: “In recent years, they’ve formed a working relationship with the ruling party, allowing them to conduct business relatively unmolested.

“This makes those ultras significantly different from most other European countries in a sense that their actions are usually tolerated by the authorities.“

The ruling Serbian Progressive Party is said to allow many hooligan groups to continue with their dirty work in order for everyone to stay happy within society.

Current president, Aleksandar Vučić, has even labelled himself a former Red Star ultra in the past.

Researcher James Montague claims the Serbian leader has sought to court and co-opt football hooligans.

He said: “Vučić understood that this is a powerful and dangerous constituency that can make or break a president.

“The ultras can quickly be mobilised for political goals if needed. At the same time, the authorities listen carefully to what is being shouted at the stands.”

AFP or licensorsA bloodied hooligan being arrested after causing a riot[/caption]

EPAPolice often clash with fans at the stadiums[/caption]

AFP or licensorsBlood stained fans are seen by the pitch after a fierce derby match in Serbia[/caption]

AFP or licensorsA former Yugoslavian army T-55 tank was once seen parked outside the Rajko Mitic stadium in Belgrade[/caption]

AFPMany matches in Serbia are played under thick smoke clouds coming from the stands[/caption]

ReutersArmed riot police battle with Serbian fans causing issues in the stands[/caption]

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