Sydney may be half a world away from the Balkans, but it is not immune to the dark forces which tore apart the region in the 1990s. Tens of thousands of Serbs, Croats and Bosnians came to Australia both before and after the savage wars, and many settled in Sydney. Like any immigrant community, they brought with them cultural baggage - including age-old enmities. But they also brought a love of soccer. Sydney's Serbs are represented by a team called the Bonnyrigg White Eagles, while Croats back their side, Sydney United. After repeated clashes between the two teams 20 years ago, they were split into separate soccer leagues and banned from playing each other. But when Sydney United decided recently not to bid for a place in a new league, the two sides found themselves, once again, in the same competition. They met on the pitch a week ago, and the outcome was depressingly familiar. Violence erupted almost immediately between the opposing fans. Dozens of supporters fought a running battle, hurling flares and other projectiles at each other and the police. A car belonging to an employee of Sydney United was set alight at the team's club house, while a day later, about a dozen bullets were fired at the White Eagles' club house. 'I think the vast bulk of Australians would say that there is absolutely no place in our streets or on our soccer fields for living out those tensions,' said the New South Wales police minister, Carl Scully. The violence tapped into a long-held fear in Australia that immigrant communities from Europe and Asia sometimes bring their old-world ethnic hatreds to their adopted home. Politicians and community leaders are quick to condemn such behaviour for fear that it could shatter the country's multicultural mix, a fusion of peoples from around the world which has, by and large, been remarkably successful. With a few exceptions, Sydney does not suffer the gang violence that plagues Los Angeles or New York, and neither does Melbourne or Brisbane. But the ethnic melting pots of Australian cities are a potentially dangerous brew which need to be carefully monitored. As The Australian newspaper commented: 'Australians do not appreciate the importation of ancient ethnic hatreds into our multicultural landscape.' Srebrenica, Mostar and a dozen other atrocities were terrible crimes against humanity. It would be an added tragedy if their memory served to foment more violence on the other side of the planet.