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FIFPro and the Serbian professional footballers association Nezavisnost (SPFN) advise all professional footballers not to come to Serbia, as there is a huge risk that the players will not get paid their salaries.

"We hate to do this, but it is our job to protect the players", explains FIFPro Secretary General Theo van Seggelen.

"Players haven't been paid for months and encounter serious financial problems. Clubs are on the verge of going bankrupt. On top of that, I received the shocking news that one of the clubs totally disrespects the players' rights and even allows hooligans to threaten their players."

Van Seggelen is referring to a recent incident at FK Radnicki 1923 Kragujevac. For the last three months (since August this year), the players of that club have not received their salaries. On Monday December 1st, in a desperate effort to get their money, the players announced a strike. They did not want to play any match unless they received (a substantial part of) their overdue payables.

Basic needs

Many of the Radnicki players face serious problems paying for basic needs such as food and drinks. Some of those players were even expelled from their homes.

"There are players who lack the money to buy milk for their children", says Mirko Poledica, President of the Serbian players' union. A player who joined Radnicki 1923 in August, has received just one monthly salary after signing for the club. "He only received 1,000 euro in four months, but this is not enough to cover four months' living expenses . Serbia is an expensive country."

Nezavisnost already offered financial support to all its members in FC Radnicki 1923 with a single payout (of 200 euro). Poledica: "But that is not a structural solution. There are more clubs with similar problems, we cannot pay all the players ..."

Fans

On December 3rd, two days after the players had announced their strike, the club and the coach informed them (minutes before the start of a training session) that a delegation of supporters would come into the locker room to talk with the players. These so-called fans insulted the players and threatened to beat or stab them with knives if the players were to continue their strike.

One of the more experienced players, Vuk Sotirović, was hit in the face when he tried to reason with the supporters and protect his younger teammates. Other players prevented that a fight broke out.

Immediately after the incident, the players called the police, which took their statements.

Union President Poledica: "It is particularly disturbing that apparently the coach Neško Milovanovic brought the fans into the locker room. The rumor goes that he was behind the incident."

On Sunday, December 7th, the players did play their league match against FK Vojvodina at home (3-4 loss). During the match supporters displayed various banners with insults and threats directed to the players. Poledica: "One of the banners even stated that Vuk Sotirović could be murdered."

In the following days, seven players left the club, according to Nezavisnost. Poledica: "They feel they cannot  provide for their basic needs while playing at FK Radnicki." Most of these players have initiated arbitration procedures against Radnicki at the Serbian NDRC.

The country's football association (FSS) and League condemned the incident in a letter, but the FA did not start any disciplinary procedure against the club. "Very disappointing", says Poledica.

Negative advice

FK Radnicki is not the only club in Serbia coping with serious financial problems. Eight of the sixteen premier league teams (SuperLiga) have their bank accounts blocked by the Serbian national bank and cannot pay their players and other employees.

Poledica: "The current situation is alarming. We currently have 115 cases concerning overdue payables at our NDRC. There are only approximately 500 professional footballers in Serbia. We would not be surprised if some of the clubs file for bankruptcy in the near future."

"Therefore we must send a message to all countries and recommend all foreign footballers not to come to Serbia, because there are no guarantees that they will be paid."

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The banners addressing Vuk Sotirović