A Flag-Carrying Drone Sparked A Massive Brawl At Albania Vs. Serbia Soccer Match
An already politically-charged match between Albania and Serbia lived up to its reputation on Tuesday.
The game was called off midway through the contest, following the eruption of a brawl prompted by a flag-carrying drone.
At about the 41st minute of the Euro 2016 qualifying round match between the two Balkan nations, a drone was flown over the pitch at the Partizan Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia.
— IBTimes UK (@IBTimesUK) October 15, 2014
As a report from the Washington Post explains, the geographical region displayed on the flag refers to the idea of “Greater Albania,” which includes parts of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and northern Greece.
The region displayed on the flag also includes the whole of Kosovo, the territory which was once under Serbian rule and is now largely dominated by Albanians.
Much of the tension between Albania and Serbia can be traced back to the history of Kosovo, which declared autonomy in 2008, but has still not been recognized as an independent nation by Serbia.
CNN’s James Masters explained the other important components of the flag:
The two figures on the flag were Isa Boljetini, an Albanian nationalist who led uprisings against the Serbs and Ottomans in 1912 and 1913, while the other, Ismail Qemali, is considered to be the founder of the modern Albanian state, which became independent in 1912.
The word ‘Autochthonous,’ which refers to an indigenous inhabitant of a place, was emblazoned at the bottom of the flag and is considered an offense to Serbians.
In the footage of the violent affair, there appear to be two pivotal moments that led to the brawl and riots. The first involved Serbian defender Stefan Mitrović, who attempted to take down the flag from the drone.
Mitrović was met by opposition from the Albanian players, who seemed none too pleased that the Serb was handling the flag.
The second involved a few Albanian players attempting to take the flag to their bench. While doing so, they were attacked by fans.
Albanian defender Lorik Cana later told reporters:
We just wanted to take the flag, and everything would be under control if the stadium security at the stadium had prevented the supporters from attacking our players.
The Albanian players eventually retreated to their locker rooms, while Serbian fans pelted them with objects. The match was abandoned some 30 minutes later by the presiding referee, England’s Martin Atkinson.
Europe’s governing body of soccer, UEFA, has opened up a disciplinary investigation into the matter. Previously, Albania had not played a match in Serbia since 1967.