Updates from Friday, Oct. 23
Serbia and Albania have both been punished following the chaos that erupted during their recent Euro 2016 qualifier.
A drone flew a Greater Albania flag into the stadium, prompting a violent reaction by players and supporters. The Daily Mail and Bryan Swanson of Sky Sports reports UEFA's official response:
Updates from Wednesday, Oct. 15
Rob Harris of the Associated Press reports Serbia FA has been charged by UEFA:
Zoran Milosavljevic of Reuters reports a man was arrested on suspicion of organising the flag incident: "Serbian state television reported that Olsi Rama, the brother of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, was arrested in the VIP section on suspicion of instigating the flag stunt."
However, the Albanian government was quick to dismiss those claims, according to Milosavljevic:
Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said that to the best of his knowledge Olsi Rama had left the stadium for the airport, according to information he had from Serbia's interior ministry and Albanian officials in Belgrade.
Asked if he had been arrested on suspicion of organising the drone stunt, Tahiri told Reuters: 'Not to my knowledge. It's speculation.'
CNN provided Rama's take on the Serbian claims:
'I am very disgusted by the allegation of my having any involvement in the piloting of the drone,' Olsi Rama told CNN Wednesday, who said he had been taking pictures of the game from a VIP suite at the stadium.
'The police came in, they checked me, they heard from people there about my being a relative of the prime minister and in the chain of command they came up with a plot,' added Rama.
'They searched me, they looked at my camera, a simple Canon camera.
'I was in the stadium I wanted to take pictures to show my friends.
'There were 50 or so Albanian guys who can say I didn't have the controller they searched everyone.'
The Serbian FA has called on UEFA to hand them a 3-0 win following Tuesday's abandoned Euro 2016 qualifier with Albania.
The match had to be abandoned after a drone was used to fly a Greater Albanian flag into the ground, prompting violent scenes involving both teams. Marcus Christenson, editor of The Guardian, reports:
However, Albania captain Lorik Cana has claimed he and his team-mates were attacked by stewards as they attempted to leave the chaos that engulfed the stadium. The Telegraph provides Cana's revelation: "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."
UEFA confirmed disciplinary proceedings have begun, per The Associated Press' Rob Harris:
Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter, presidents of UEFA and FIFA respectively, both condemned Tuesday's incident, per Ben Rumsby of The Telegraph:
Uefa’s president, Michel Platini, said: 'Football is supposed to bring people together and our game should not be mixed with politics of any kind. The scenes in Belgrade last night were inexcusable.'
Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, added: 'Football should never be used for political messages. I strongly condemn what happened in Belgrade last night.'
The UEFA European Championship 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania was always going to make for an interesting match, but Tuesday's fixture defied all imagination after someone flew a Greater Albanian flag into the stadium with a drone.
UEFA.com confirmed the match has been abandoned as a result of the chaos that ensued.
Fox Soccer initially reported that play was halted after fights broke out on the pitch:
Rob Harris of The Associated Press provided an update from UEFA:
When Stefan Mitrovic tried to pull the flag down, presumably so the match could continue, all hell broke loose. The Guardian's James Dart shared some of the footage:
The Guardian's Nick Ames was on hand to describe the incredible scenes, as players and even officials got involved in a scuffle:
Branislav Ivanovic commented on the bizarre scene via James Masters of CNN:
Tension in the stadium was incredibly high before the match, but until the incident with the drone took place, the play on the pitch had been surprisingly amiable.
Even when the drone was first spotted in the 34th minute, things remained calm. It wasn't until Mitrovic pulled down the flag that the Albanian players took offence, as can be seen in the video below:
The two nations have had a strained relationship ever since the end of the Kosovo War, and journalist Tariq Panja can't believe UEFA allowed both teams to play in the same qualifying group while separating other squads:
As reported by The Associated Press (for ESPN FC), the Albanian FA agreed to Serbian demands by not making arrangements for visiting fans, effectively ensuring the stadium would only contain Serbs on Tuesday.
One can only imagine what would have happened if several thousand Albanians had been present when the incident occurred. According to the report, Serbia will not have fans present during their scheduled match in Albania next year.