Serbia fans with the flag against Kosovo ©FIFA

The Kosovo Olympic Committee (KOC) and the Football Federation of Kosovo have made complaints to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA over a controversial flag flown by Serbian fans at the World Cup in Qatar.

Both have additionally requested disciplinary action against the Football Federation of Serbia and its players for "discriminatory behaviour" during the nation's opening match of the tournament against Brazil, which Serbia lost 2-0.

Images showed Serbian fans holding a flag depicting the shape of the Kosovar territory - which is also on the Kosovo flag - but with the outline of the territory covered by the Serbian flag.

A stamp-like mark sported the words "we do not surrender" in Serbian.

This flag was later seen in the dressing room of the Serbian team in another image.

Kosovar authorities have said this was a "message of conflict and aggression".

"Serbian players and spectators during the match with Brazil exposed flags with the Kosovo map, thereby hurting territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosova, threatening with violence and aggression, through flags which, through the wording 'we do not surrender' sent a message of conflict and aggression towards Albanians," said the KOC in a statement.

Hajrullah Ceku, the Kosovan Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, called the images "disgraceful" on Twitter.

Swiss players were fined for making what was deemed an inflammatory gesture while playing against Serbia at the 2018 World Cup ©Getty Images
Swiss players were fined for making what was deemed an inflammatory gesture while playing against Serbia at the 2018 World Cup ©Getty Images

UEFA prohibits Kosovo from being drawn against Serbia in its competitions because of tensions between the two.

Kosovo also cannot be drawn against Russia or Bosnia and Herzegovina in the group stage of any UEFA competition or qualifying tournaments. 

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo stem from long-running territorial disputes.

Kosovo and Serbia have had strict border restrictions in place in wake of Kosovo's self-declared independence in 2008.

The majority of Kosovo's population are ethnic Albanians, and at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Swiss pair Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri - who both have Kosovar heritage - were each fined CHF10,000 (£8,700/$10,500/€10,200) for celebrating goals against Serbia with an eagle gesture mimicking the two-headed bird on the Albania flag. 

Kosovo is recognised by 101 of the 193 United Nations members, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Serbia does not recognise the secession of Kosovo, however, seeing the territory as an autonomous part of its own country, rather than a separate sovereign state.

Kosovar athletes have suffered issues trying to enter Serbia previously for competitions, including the 2021 Men's World Boxing Championships, which led to the boxers withdrawing from the competition.

The Kosovo flag was also absent from the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade this year - even extending to the World Athletics website.

The Spanish Government refused to grant Kosovo permission to compete under its own flag at the 2018 Karate World Championships, before backing down following pressure from the international sporting community.

Spain is among several nations which does not recognise Kosovo's independence, largely because of what that would mean for its own domestic independence movements.