In Albania-Serbia face-off, fury over a flag turns ugly

A 2016 Euro qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned on Tuesday after scuffles among players and fans.

By: Associated Press | Belgrade | Updated: October 16, 2014 10:26 am
A drone carries the  ‘Greater Albania’ flag over the Partizan Stadium in Belgrade during Albania-Serbia Euro qualifier A drone carries the ‘Greater Albania’ flag over the Partizan Stadium in Belgrade during Albania-Serbia Euro qualifier

A 2016 European Championship qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned on Tuesday after scuffles among players and fans on the pitch over a banner featuring an Albanian flag that was flown above the stadium by a drone. English referee Martin Atkinson interrupted the match in the 41st minute when Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic managed to grab the banner and Albania players tried to protect it. Several Serbian fans invaded the pitch and clashed with Albania players.

Serbia’s Stefan Mitrovic  grabs the ‘Greater  Albania’ flag and attemps to crush it in the 41st minute of the game Serbia’s Stefan Mitrovic grabs the ‘Greater Albania’ flag and attemps to crush it in the 41st minute of the game

The Group I match was later abandoned “due to a disturbance on the pitch,’’ according to UEFA, with the score at 0-0. “The Euro 2016 Qualifying match between Serbia and Albania has been abandoned and the circumstances will be reported to the UEFA Disciplinary Body,” European football’s ruling body said in a statement. Albanian fans had been warned against attending the game between the two Balkan rival nations that have had turbulent relations – mainly over the former ethnic Albanian-dominated Serbian province of Kosovo that declared independence in 2008. “We wanted to continue the match, but Albanian players said they were not psychologically ready,” Serbia captain Branislav Ivanovic said.

As tensions rise on and off the pitch, players lose their cool and scuffle as the Albanians try to  retrive the flag As tensions rise on and off the pitch, players lose their cool and scuffle as the Albanians try to retrieve the flag

Both Serbian and Albanian fans have a long history of violence and racial abuse. In October 2010, the Italy-Serbia European Championship qualifier was disrupted in Genoa by violent Serbia fans. UEFA eventually awarded Italy a 3-0 win. On Tuesday, the Albanian anthem was loudly jeered by Serbian fans and derogatory chanting was heard throughout the first half. Serbian supporters also threw flares at the pitch. The drone, clearly visible in the lights of the stadium, made a series of passes above the pitch.

Serbian fans find their way to the pitch and try to attack  Albanian players as things quickly go out of control Serbian fans find their way to the pitch and try to attack Albanian players as things quickly go out of control

The banner displayed an Albanian flag and a map of so-called “Greater Albania,’’ an area that comprises territory within today’s Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and northern Greece.

By: DUSAN STOJANOVIC

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