Adem Ljajic's principles have cost him a place on Serbia's national team. The 20-year-old forward refuses to sing the country's national anthem, which violates team rules set by newly installed head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic.
The Telegraph reports Ljajic, a Slav Muslim from an ethnically mixed region of Serbia, will not budge on the issue, and Serbia has dropped him as a result.
"Ljajic has been sent home from the team's European tour and the decision is based on Mihajlovic's rulebook stipulating a code of conduct which Ljajic has breached," the Serbian federation said in a statement.
"Ljajic has told Mihajlovic he refused to sing the national anthem out of personal beliefs and that there would be no change in his position regarding the matter. The player will only be allowed to return to the national team if he changes his attitude and officially notifies Mihajlovic that he has done so."
Although he has yet to nail down a starting role with his club (AC Fiorentina), Ljajic is thought of as one of Europe's brightest young talents. His promise has earned him trials at Manchester United, and seven international appearances at the senior level.
Mihajlovic was hired as Serbia's head coach last week. His first order of business was to insist that players and staff agree to a set of rules. The first made the singing of the national anthem a requirement. His attempts at building camaraderie and patriotism could cost Serbia the services of a player on which it will depend.
Ljajic was born in 1991 — shortly before the outbreak of a war that ravaged the region. His family and community's experience in the conflict could be one of the factors behind his refusal to sing the national anthem.
Serbia didn't qualify for the European Championships, but it is playing a three-game tour to prepare for the start of its FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. Saturday's 2-0 loss to Spain was the first stop. It travels to France on June 1 and Sweden on June 5 to round out the summer schedule.
Serbia looks to advance out of Group A, which includes tough tests against Belgium, Scotland and Wales. Those will be nothing compared to the politically charged affairs against fellow former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Macediona.
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