The English Football Association (The FA) has completed their investigation into the actions of Manchester City football (soccer) players Aleksandar Kolarov and Matija Nastasic, during the team’s public celebrations of their second Premier League title in three years on May 11, 2014.
The investigation was launched as a result of the protest letter by the Congress of North American Bosniaks (CNAB) and the Institute for Research of Genocide Canada (IGC) because the players chose to celebrate the title by wearing customized white t-shirts featuring highly offensive Serbian ultranationalist slogan “Srbija do Tokija” (“Serbia to Tokyo”). These same slogans were frequently used by Serbian military and paramilitary forces while they committed genocide and atrocities during their campaign of aggressions on Bosnia and Herzegovina and other neighboring countries in the 1990s under the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic. We have heard from many victims of the Bosnian genocide and supporters of Manchester City and fans of the Premier League who said they have been hurt and disappointed with the actions of these two players.
In the official correspondence received by CNAB’s department for public relations, The FA’s communications representative issued the following statement:
“We have investigated the complaint and sought independent expert advice on the matter.
We appreciate the fact that you raised this matter with us and understand your reaction to seeing the symbol and slogan on t-shirts at a Premier League football match. We also understand why they caused offence. That said, we have been advised that the symbol and slogan have multiple meanings and have been, and are, used in a number of different contexts, not all of which are offensive.
Both players have explained that the t-shirts were worn purely to reflect their national pride and have reassured us that it was not their intention to cause any offence or to make any political statement in wearing them.
In considering this matter very carefully in light of the advice we have received from an independent expert, The FA has decided to issue both players with a warning on this occasion. We have also made it very clear that should either player display this slogan or symbol in the future, we may issue disciplinary charges against them.”
Although the investigation did not bring about disciplinary charges at this time, we welcome the actions taken by the FA to seek expert advice, investigate and issue a warning to the players against such actions in the future. We hope that this will send a clear message that nationalist slogans that are offensive have no place in sports. It is, however, very disappointing that Aleksandar Kolarov and Matija Nastasic did not issue an apology to all those who were offended.