Armed Serbian police will deploy a ring of steel around Northern Ireland fans to guarantee their safety in Belgrade this week.
UEFA chiefs have granted permission for just 240 Northern Ireland supporters to attend Friday’s night’s crucial Euro 2012 qualifier after ordering the game to be played behind closed doors in punishment for rioting by Serb fans in Italy last year.
Now a military-style operation will be mounted to protect the small travelling band from reprisals by locked out local trouble-makers with a notorious reputation for football hooliganism.
IFA Security Officer Stephen Grange told Sunday Life last night: “The safety of our fans is paramount and we’ve been in negotiations with the Serbian officials for over a month now.
“We have organised transport to and from the game for the 240 fans who will travel as one group, under police escort. We requested assurances from the Serbian authorities with regard to the safety of our supporters and these have been given.”
However, relations with the Serbian FA are less cordial.
For the full story, see this week's Sunday Life.