SERBIA and Albania’s football associations were yesterday charged by European chiefs after violent scenes caused the abandonment of Tuesday’s Euro 2016 qualifier between the two nations in Belgrade.
A flag-bearing drone containing a nationalist political message ignited simmering tensions between the Balkan rivals, while the story took a bizarre twist when the brother of the Albanian prime minister, Olsi Rama, was forced to deny his involvement in the stunt.
Clashes broke out between players, fans and officials when Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic attempted to ground the flag, with English referee Martin Atkinson forced to suspend play in the 41st minute.
European governing body Uefa subsequently confirmed the game’s abandonment half an hour later with the scoreline goalless, and yesterday opened disciplinary proceedings.
Serbia have been handed a total of five charges relating to the crowd trouble while Albania have been charged with refusing to play as well as the display of an illicit banner.
The Albania team returned home to a hero’s welcome for defending national honour, while Serbian football bosses have accused officials of mis-handling the situation and demanded their team be awarded victory retrospectively. A Serbian FA statement read: “They simply took Uefa rules into their own hands. We estimate they are guilty for the match abandonment and expect Uefa to register a 3-0 match result.”
In a bizarre turn of events, a senior member of the Serbian government accused Olsi Rama – brother of Albanian premier Edi – of instigating the drone amid reports he had been arrested in the stadium in possession of a remote control. Rama said: “I’ve never used a drone in my life, only bought my son a toy helicopter.”