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European Handball Federation cancels tournament amid Serbia-Kosovo row

The European Handball Federation (EHF) has opted not to stage the remaining matches of its women’s U20 World Championship qualification tournament in Serbia after the host country refused to allow neighbouring Kosovo to compete.

The tournament got underway on Friday at Belgrade’s Kovilovo Sport Center complex but only one match was held on the opening day, with Norway taking on Slovakia behind closed doors on the advice of the Serbian police.

The move was taken to ensure players’ safety amid concerns that Serbian nationalists would cause trouble at matches. Serbia refuses to recognise the 2008 declaration of independence by Kosovo, its former province.

Serbia had been due to take on Kosovo on Friday but the host nation refused to play the match. Serbia was subsequently banned from the competition by the EHF. The EHF had said that Kosovo’s remaining matches against Norway and Slovakia would go ahead as planned but the Serbian government then informed the body that these fixtures would not be permitted.

The EHF asked the Handball Federation of Serbia, which was hosting the event, if the matches would go ahead. The Serbian federation said that this was not possible and the EHF eventually decided to cancel the tournament.

The EHF on Saturday said that details surrounding the rescheduling of the tournament would be provided when available. The tournament had already been moved to the Kovilovo Sport Center from its original venue in Kragujevac, Serbia.