Red Star deny claims of racism ahead of Gers tie

August 14, 2007

Red Star Belgrade have hit out at suggestions their fans are racist thugs ahead of their Champions League qualifier against Rangers tonight.

The Serbian champions arrived in Glasgow in defiant mood ahead of the first leg at Ibrox following reports of a hooligan element within their support.

Club bosses are also unhappy at comments made by Rangers' American winger DaMarcus Beasley, who claimed recently that he was subjected to racial abuse during a previous visit to Belgrade with PSV Eindhoven.

Rangers have expressed concerns over the safety of their fans for the return leg in Serbia in a fortnight's time, opting to take just 1,000 tickets for the clash at the vast Marakana stadium.

But Red Star board member - and Serbian Football Association official - Dobrivoje Tanasijevic insisted: 'We are sports participants, we are not sports hooligans.

'We have not created hooliganism - it was created in other countries and brought to us.

'However, we have never had a hooligan problem at home in our international matches or our domestic matches.

'There are individuals but we do not have groups of thousands of people travelling and beating people up.'

Beasley and Ibrox team-mate Jean-Claude Darcheville were subjected to monkey chants in the last round against FK Zeta in neighbouring Montenegro.

And the United States international spoke of his fears of a repeat in Belgrade having been the target of racial abuse there during his last visit to the city three years ago.

Tanasijevic added: 'We are hurt, after reading in the press, reports from one of your players, who is an American, about our supporters' behaviour when he was playing for another club.

'I just want you to know that no-one from Scotland, or any other country, will have any problems in Serbia.

'We are not aggressors even though, in some political circles, we are called aggressors.

'We love sports and we love people. We also like to win so be careful!'

A spokesman for Red Star Belgrade added: 'I would like to express our wishes that both games, here in Glasgow and in Belgrade, will be remembered for good football, excellent atmosphere and fair play and sportsmanship both on the pitch and off the pitch.

'Bearing in mind recent reports in the British press and comments of certain individuals alluding to the possibility of racial remarks and unsportsmanlike behaviour in the stands of our stadium, we would like to state that our club absolutely supports UEFA's United Against Racism campaign and deeply condemns intolerance of any kind.'