The quick way to annoy a country

Adem Ljajic, a Serbian soccer player, has been booted out of his national team for refusing to sing the Serbian national anthem, Bože Pravde.

He’s the first man in this clip. As you can see, no one else in the team sings the anthem with any gusto – most look like they’re miming – but Ljajic’s been punished anyway.

He says he had “personal reasons” for not singing, and, being an impulsive millionaire soccer player, that reason is probably he didn’t like being ordered to sing by his manager.

But it’s far more interesting to assume it’s a political stand. And there are reasonable grounds for doing so:

  • Ljajic is a Muslim from Novi Pazar in the south of Serbia, a city where it’s easier to find a mosque than a beer (I know; I once spent a good half-hour looking)
  • Serbia’s not had the greatest record with Muslim countries (see the Bosnian and Kosovan wars)
  • Last week, Serbia elected a new president, Tomislav Nikolic, a man who’s been accused of war crimes and made it quite clear he’d like to reoccupy Kosovo

Given all that, you can understand Ljajic might not feel comfortable right now singing  about the “god of justice…protecting Serbian lands and Serbian race”.

Although the incident does come only weeks after Ljajic was beaten up by his club manager for acting stupidly.

This is the second news story this year about someone refusing to sing their anthem. The first involved an Israeli judge and led to calls to change the Israeli anthem to make it more inclusive. Somehow, I can’t see Ljajic’s silence leading anyone in Serbia to call for Bože Pravde to be changed.

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