Ibrahimovic faces ethnic slurs from fans during Europa League game in Serbia


AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks on during warm up before the Europa League round of 32 first leg soccer match between Red Star and AC Milan at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Darko Vojinovic / AP)

BELGRADE, Serbia — Red Star Belgrade apologized to AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Friday after he was targeted with repeated ethnic insults from fans during a Europa League match that was supposed to be played without supporters in the stands.

Amateur footage showed Ibrahimovic, who has Bosnian and Croatian roots, being repeatedly targeted with the slurs as he sat in the stands as a substitute during the 2-2 draw between the two teams on Thursday.

The 39-year-old Swedish star sat without showing emotion despite derogatory terms for Bosnian nationals being directed at him in Serbian, a language he understands.

Red Star issued a statement on Friday “sincerely apologizing” to Ibrahimovic and promising to punish the culprit when he’s found.

“Red Star condemns in the strongest terms the offensive remarks directed at Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” the statement said. “As a club we have done everything to ensure that the organization of the match is at the level of the two great teams and we will not allow a single primitive person to throw a stain on the traditional hospitality of our country and our people.”

The match should have been played with no fans attending because of COVID-19 restrictions. But numerous Red Star fans apparently gained entry to the top of the stands that were reserved only for officials.

Red Star fans are notorious for violent outbursts in the stands that often include ethnic insults against Bosnians, Croatians and Kosovars with whom Serbia fought wars during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.

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