Serbian player not allowed into Croatia

Updated: November 13, 2004, 12:55 PM ET
Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- A Serbian basketball player was banned from entering Croatia because of a nationalist tattoo on his arm that authorities said was inflammatory.

Milan Gurovic, who also is on the Serbia-Montenegro national team, was barred from traveling to Zagreb, where his team plays a regional league game Sunday.

The tattoo is "considered as an incitement ... of racial, national or religious hatred," which is banned by Croatian laws, Croatian Interior Ministry spokesman Zlatko Mehun said.

Mehun said police also would act if a Croatian player displays similar symbols. This was the first time Croatia applied such a measure on a foreign athlete.

"Things have left the boundaries of sports and moved into politics," said Dragan Todorov, an official with the Serbian team Partizan Belgrade. He added that the club plans to complain to basketball governing bodies.

The tattoo is of Draza Mihajlovic, whose troops during World War II were allied with fascists in Croatia and are blamed for slaying hundreds of Croats. Mihajlovic was executed by the Communists. Serb nationalists had declared Mihajlovic their hero, naming their paramilitary units after his guerrilla fighters.

Serbia and Croatia fought in the 1990s following the breakup of Yugoslavia, a war that claimed about 10,000 lives.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press