BELGRADE (Reuters) – Fans of Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade have parked a decommissioned tank in front of their stadium ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League qualifying playoff against Swiss team Young Boys – in a gesture one fan described as “entirely normal”.
The Soviet-made T-55 tank is one of over a thousand that served for decades with the now-defunct Yugoslav People’s Army, including during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.
The tank, fully decommissioned, welded shut and freshly painted in camouflage colours and adorned with the club’s trademark red and white emblem, was parked in front of the northern entrance of the Rajko Mitic Stadium on Monday.
The northern side of the stadium is usually reserved for Red Star supporters, who in the past have often been involved in violent incidents and expressed strong nationalist views.
“The Red Star machine is being prepared,” the RSB fan Web site said ahead of the second-leg of the playoff, currently 2-2 on aggregate.
A club spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Red Star fans dismissed the idea that parking a tank in front of the stadium was provocative, and dozens of them posed in front of it for photos.
“This is not a provocation… This is entirely normal… The war ended 25 years ago,” said Nenad, a fan from the northern town of Zrenjanin.
“This is the symbol ever since I’ve been a Red Star fan.”
Stanisa Bosiokovic, another fan who had just bought his ticket for the match, suggested there was nothing threatening about the move: “This is more sport-related than anything else.”
Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic suggested there was no problem, pointing out that there were no ordnance or explosive devices inside the machine.
“This is something that resembles a tank. It has tracks and a mock turret… The prosecution said there are no reasons for police action,” he told reporters.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Hugh Lawson)