BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The North Macedonian soccer federation has submitted a request to UEFA asking for Austria striker Marko Arnautović to be punished for a nationalist outburst after he scored a goal at the European Championship.
The federation said the outburst was directed at Ezgjan Alioski, who is of Albanian origin. Arnautović's father is Serbian and his mother is Austrian.
“We are always against nationalism, discrimination and all other forms of insults and outbursts that are not in the spirit of football and the values that we all stand for together,” the federation said in a statement released late Monday. “We will always stand up and defend the interests and dignity of the Macedonian national team wherever they play.”
UEFA said Tuesday it has appointed a disciplinary inspector to conduct an investigation into the incident. UEFA disciplinary rules call for a minimum 10-match ban for insults based on race or ethnic origin.
Arnautović scored the final goal in Austria’s 3-1 victory over North Macedonia on Sunday at the National Arena in Bucharest.
He wrote in an Instagram story that he was sorry for what happened and acknowledged “some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to apologize - especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania.”
“I would like to say one thing very clearly: I AM NOT A RACIST!” Arnautović wrote. “I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity.”
The Albanian minority forms about a quarter of North Macedonia’s 2.1 million population.
Tensions between North Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in the small Balkan country erupted in 2001 when Albanians took up arms and fought with government forces, demanding more rights.
The conflict ended after seven months with a deal that granted more rights to Albanians.
Ethnic Albanian parties have been part of every government in the country since it declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
Serbia and ethnic Albanians have also been in conflict in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.
Kosovo’s majority population are ethnic Albanians, and Serbia has never recognized the country's independence.
Albania, Kosovo and Serbia all border North Macedonia.
In 2017, Serbia was angered by North Macedonia’s intention to support Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO.
Associated Press writer Konstantin Testorides in Skopje, North Macedonia, and AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth in Baku, Azerbaijan, contributed to this report.
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