Basketball: Serbia 'outrage' after fan killed in Istanbul

ISTANBUL - Serbia expressed "outrage" Saturday after a Red Star Belgrade basketball fan was stabbed to death in Istanbul.

Each side gave differing accounts of events that led to the death of 25-year-old Marko Ivkovic who was stabbed in the heart during a fight between Turkish and Serbian fans on Friday night.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic voiced "outrage over the monstruous murder," a government statement said.

Serbia demands that the perpetrator be urgently "found, arrested and most severely punished," it said.

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called Vucic to voice regret and condolences for the death. He pledged that Turkish authorities would do everything to find the perpetrator.

But in a sign of the tensions caused by the attack, Vucic said that Galatasaray coach Ergin Ataman was not welcome in Serbia after "accusing the killed young man and all other Red Star fans of terrorism," the statement said.

Ivkovic was caught in the centre of a fight between Red Star and Galatasaray club supporters, Turkey's official Anatolia news agency said.

Turkish doctors battled for five hours, but the man eventually died due to massive bleeding, the Serbian consul in Istanbul Zoran Markovic told Serbia's official Tanjug news agency.

The two sides disputed a Euroleague match which Galatasaray won 110-103. But many fans were left outside with no tickets.

Nebojsa Covic, the Red Star president, blamed Turkish organisers and the police for the first spectator violence fatality in the Euroleague.

"The organisation of this game was a shame, the behaviour of the (Turkish) police was a shame. They knew perfectly what might happen," he said in comments published by Serbian media.

He said there were vacant seats in the stadium and claimed the Turkish club and police had said it was a sellout when they discovered more Serbian fans were coming.

Tanjug said Galatasaray fans attacked some 400 Red Star supporters who had no tickets. Stones and flares were thrown in the battle.

The Turkish club said the fight was started by Red Star fans and expressed "deep sorrow" over the death.

"We are of the opinion that this judicial case has nothing to do with Galatasaray Sports Club, or its supporters," Galatasaray said in a statement.

"We want to emphasise once more that violence overshadowing the basic goal of sports is unacceptable no matter where it comes from," it added.

Istanbul police said security forces stood between the rival fans to keep them apart.

"It is understood that one supporter was stabbed and killed while Red Star fans were being escorted away from the venue," said a police statement.

On Saturday evening some 1,000 Red Star supporters, surrounded by strong anti-riot police, gathered in the Serbian capital near a church where a mass was held for the victim.

They then peacefully marched through downtown Belgrade to stop briefly just near the Turskih embassy where they chanted the victim's name and unfolded a banner with his name, according to an AFP photographer.

Euroleague Basketball condemned the "senseless violence" in which Ivkovic died.

"This tragedy offends the true spirit of sports," Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball president, said in a statement.

"Violence has no place in our game, at our arenas or anywhere near them," he added.

Euroleague said it has requested that both clubs and the Turkish authorities make available all the information about the incident and will evaluate any measures to be taken.