Serbian-born football coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic was removed from his position as Montenegro’s national team chief on Saturday after he boycotted the game between Montenegro and Kosovo. The two Balkan nations finished the Friday European Championship qualifier with a 1-1 draw.
The Montenegro Football Association said the decision to oust Tumbakovic was made “unanimously.”
BBC reports Tumbakovic, 66, had reportedly come under pressure from the Serbian authorities in Belgrade, which do not recognise the independence of Kosovo.
Serbia-born players Filip Stojkovic and Mirko Ivanic also pulled out. Montenegro’s football federation (FSCG) called Tumbakovic’s decision an “unpleasant surprise”.
The coach’s decision was “not only an unpleasant surprise, but also a breach of his professional duties stipulated by his contract,” they added.
Tumbakovic is a Serbian national. The government in Belgrade sees Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, as a breakaway province and rejects its statehood. In contrast, the small nation of Montenegro recognizes Kosovo as an independent nation.
In addition to Tumbakovic, two Serbian-born Montenegro players also boycotted the Friday match. Both Mirko Ivanic and Filip Stojkovic play for Red Star Belgrade, and local media reported intense pressure from fan groups in Serbia to keep them away from the pitch.
The Euro 2020 Group A match in Podgorica, which took place behind closed doors as punishment for fans’ racist chanting aimed at England players in March, ended 1-1.