The Serbia national team is embroiled in a scandal at the 2022 FIFA World Cup after hanging a banner that one nation said was promoting genocide.

FIFA has charged the Serbia national team for hanging a banner in its locker room during its opening game against Brazil that had an image of Kosovo with the Serbian flag over it and the phrase “Nema Predaje,” which is Albanian for “No Surrender.”

Kosovo split from Serbia in 2008 after a bloody conflict in 1998-99 and has been recognized as an independent country by the United Nations. Serbia, which has backing from autocratic regimes in Russia and China, does not recognize Kosovo as an independent country and there are recently renewed concerns that violence could break out between the two countries.

Hajrulla Ceku, Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, drew attention to the banner on Twitter by calling on FIFA to sanction Serbia who is “displaying hateful, xenophobic and genocidal messages towards Kosovo.”

The banner was hanging from the lockers of defender Miloš Veljković and forward Andrija Zivkovic.

FIFA said the banner, which was also displayed by Serbian fans, violates Article 11 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and Article 4 of the Regulations for the FIFA World Cup 2022. The FIFA code states in part that “offensive gestures, signs or language” and “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature” are prohibited.

FIFA recognized and allowed Kosovo to compete as an independent soccer federation in 2016. Due to past and sometimes ongoing political tensions, FIFA does not allow Kosovo to play Serbia, Russia, or Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Of note, defender Miloš Degenek on the Australian national team fled Serbia when he was young due to the war with Kosovo.

FIFA already banned European national teams from wearing the “One Love” armband in support of LGBTQ+ rights but has not yet taken action against Serbia. There’s no timetable on a decision ahead of Serbia’s next game in Group G against Cameroon.

Interestingly, there could be renewed tensions in Serbia’s final match against Switzerland, which their two most recognizable players are of Kosovan descent.

[Associated Press]