The politically-sensitive Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned on Tuesday following a brawl between players from both sides triggered by Serbian racism.
Serbian fans since the beginning were hurling racist abuse at Albania’s footballers with chants like “kill the Albanian”, throwing missiles and smoke bombs onto the pitch, burning a NATO flag etc. All this abuse toward Albanians lasted for 42 minutes, before the drone with Albanian nationalist banner was dragged into the stadium from outside, with the help of a drone.
According to the illyriapress.com, the people behind drone stunt are some Swiss Albanians who did this in protest for not being allowed to enter the stadium and support their team. All Albanian fans had been barred by the Serbian federation on Sunday.
A flag depicting Ethnic Albanian Lands, an area covering all parts of the Balkans where ethnic Albanians live, was flown over the terraces and pitch by what appeared to be a remote controlled mini drone near the end of the first half was grabbed by a Serbian player, prompting an angry reaction from Albanian players and an unsightly melee ensued.
Riot police then moved in when around a dozen fans invaded the pitch and attacked the Albanian players, forcing them to retreat into the tunnel as flares were thrown from the terraces.
After a delay of around half an hour, English referee Martin Atkinson abandoned the game, which stood at 0-0.
Albanian captain Lorik Cana told Albanian television: “I saw my players being attacked and hit even inside the tunnel, and even by the stewards. We were not in the right psychological or physical state to continue playing.”
Serbian state television RTS reported cited the Serbian Interior Ministry to say that Olsi Rama controlled a drone from his seat in an executive box in the stadium, carrying a ‘Greater Albania’ flag which flew over the pitch, triggering clashes between the teams as some of the 20,000 home fans tried to assault Albanian players.
Security was not so tight for a game at which no away fans were present and held against a backdrop of long-running Serb-Albanian tensions over Kosovo, a majority-Albanian land that declared independence in 2008. NATO waged a 78-day air war in 1999 to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by Serbian forces fighting a two-year counter-insurgency war. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as independent.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic was quoted on the website of Serbian daily Blic as saying: “This was a political provocation”. But he failed to mention the racist provocations and abuse by the Serbian fans, ultras and far-right neo-Nazi groups, before and during the game.