Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) could be excluded from playing international football. In football as in politics, the country is represented by its three ethnic entities, but international football bodies FIFA and UEFA have warned that the relationship is unmanageable.
The country may be banned from all international tournaments run by the two governing bodies unless the structure of its national football federation (NSBIH) is aligned with UEFA requirements.
UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations) and FIFA (la Fédération Internationale de Football Associations) have warned that failure to replace the federation's tripartite, inter-ethnic presidency with a single presidency would lead to the national team's suspension.
After the Assembly voted not to disband the presidency on Friday, delegates from both organisations immediately left the session, stating that their executive committee would now take measures against the NSBIH.
The NSBIH, set up after the 1992-5 war, is headed by a trio of presidents representing the three 'constituent peoples' in BiH – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. This echoes the country's political structure, which comprises an eight-month presidency rotated equally between a Bosniak, a Croat and a Serb.
The ethnically-divided structure of BiH, established by the Dayton Agreement in 1995, means that political progress is slow and arduous. Attempts to reform the constitution and improve the functioning of the central institutions have failed due to wide disagreement between the political parties.
FIFA and UEFA's threat of exclusion from international competition could be seen as a possible precursor of graver consequences for BiH should its leaders continue to disagree on the country's future.
The EU has expressed serious concern about the political atmosphere in BiH and its leaders have repeatedly warned that continued infighting between Serb, Bosniak and Croat nationalists could drive the country away from the closer relationship with the Union to which its citizens aspire (see EURACTIV LinksDossier).
As for football, fans across BiH have long protested at the organisational structure of the federation, while some players have even refused to play for the national team.
The BiH team, currently 56th in the FIFA world rankings, narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after losing to Portugal in a play-off match.
The next major international tournament is the UEFA European Championships in 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, followed by the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)