Football: Croatia, Serbia ban away fans for qualifiers

Away fans will be banned from both World Cup qualifying matches between Croatia and Serbia, the two football federations announced on Thursday.

The former enemies took the joint decision in a bid to avoid crowd trouble at the games in Zagreb and Belgrade.

"It was decided that there will be no organized travel of visiting squads' fans for the next two Group A qualifying matches between Croatia and Serbia," the federations said in a joint statement.

"The decision is based on the fact that both matches are high risk and it was concluded that this is the best preventive measure."

They added that the move was made in line with recommendations by FIFA, UEFA and the relevant local authorities.

The first match is to be played on March 22 in Zagreb, and the second on September 6 in Belgrade.

Relations between the two countries gradually improved since Croatia's 1990s war against Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs who opposed its independence from the former Yugoslavia.

However, sports events including teams from the two countries are still considered high risk.

The qualifiers are the first football matches between the two nations since the 1991-1995 conflict.

In 1999, Croatia played their 2000 European championship qualifiers against Yugoslavia -- at the time composed of Montenegro and Serbia -- without visiting fans.

European qualifying zone Group A also features Belgium, Macedonia, Scotland and Wales.