Hooligans attacked Croatian fans in northern city of Novi Sad and demolished 17 automobiles, police said. Twelve hooligans have been arrested and more arrests were expected, it added.
Sports matches between Serbian and Croatian teams are always events of a high risks, because despite of improved relations, animosities deriving from 1991-1995 war that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia are still running high.
Violence sports has cast a long dark shadow over Serbia in the international arena. In 2009 a French football fan was beaten to day ahead of a Belgrade match between French Toulouse and Partizan Belgrade.
A year later in the northern Italian city of Genoa, a match was called off and awarded to Italy when Serbian hooligans ran amok during a European Cup qualifying match between Italy and Serbia.
The Croatian foreign ministry protested the latest violence to Serbia's ambassador to Zagreb, saying such events didn’t “contribute to the strengthening of relations between the two countries”.
Serbia, Croatia, Spain and Denmark have qualified for the semifinals and police are gearing up for a match between Serbia and Croatia in Belgrade on Friday. Serbian police minister Ivica Dacic said 5,000 policemen will be engaged to keep order and to protect Croatian fans.
On the other hand, the Croatian handball association has called on its fans not to go to Belgrade, saying they couldn’t be guaranteed safety. “We can only recommend to fans not to go to Serbia, because it is the smartest solution,” Zoran Gobac, president of the Croatian handball association told media.
“Attacks on Croatian fans in Serbia are intolerable incidents which only hurt Serbia’s image,” Dacic said. “We shouldn’t behave like they do when our teams go to play there,” he added.