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Matches between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia have been heavily policed. Croatia v Serbia has a different set of tensions. However, the match between Serbia and Albania was said by some to be the tensest of all.
Football takes a back seat in Serbia vs Albania clash
10/15/2014
 
Serbian riot policemen arrive to secure the pitch in the Serbia vs Albania Euro 2016 qualifier.

Additional reporting by Steve Clare



Many games in the Balkans are tense. The early 1990's saw wars, which were characterized by ethnic cleansing and some of the most inhumane acts seen in Europe since the Second World War.


Matches between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia have been heavily policed. Croatia v Serbia has a different set of tensions.


However, the match between Serbia and Albania was said by some to be the most tense of all.


Greater Albania is an irredentist concept of lands that are considered to form the national homeland by many Albanians. That area is based on claims on the present-day or historical presence of Albanian populations in those areas. The areas include Kosovo and the Presevo Valley of Serbia, territories in southern Montenegro, northwestern Greece and a part of western Macedonia. It is the claim over Kosovo that causes modern day tension.


Kosovo is a majority Albanian province that had been part of Serbia. It declared independence, a claim recognized by most of the world but not Serbia. To the Serbs, Kosovo is an iconic part of their national identity and has been since 1389 when the Serbs defeated the Ottoman Army in the Battle of Kosovo.


In that context, you would hope that everybody would be on their best behavior and act with responsibility and sensitivity. Not so.


The incident began when a drone appeared above the stadium on which was attached the flag of Greater Albania. The two people depicted on the flag were Isa Boletini, an Albanian nationalist who led uprisings against the Serbs and Ottomans in 1912 and 1913, and Ismail Qemali Qemali is considered to be the founder of the modern Albanian state.

The flag was a provocative symbol to the entirely Serb home crowd.


The Serbian fans went mad. They threw objects on the pitch, such as fireworks and flares.


The match was stopped by the English referee Martin Atkinson after Serbian footballer Stefan Mitrovic jumped in the air and grabbed the flag. That impressed the home fans but not the away players.


Mitrovic was attacked by two Albanian players who didn't appreciate his intervention. Mitrovic claimed that he wanted to give the flag to the fourth official but there wasn't time before the Albanian players tried to physically intervene.

That was not the end of the mess at the JNA stadium. Some enraged Serb fans ran on to the pitch while the players were fighting which forced Atkinson to send players in the locker room and stop the match.


Albanian players were pelted with missiles by Serbian fans as they left the pitch while a few Serbian players tried to protect the Albanians, their professional colleagues.


"What happened is something we can't comprehend at the moment," Serbia captain Branislav Ivanovic told reporters.


"On behalf of my team, all I can say is that we wanted to carry on and that we shielded the Albanian players every step of the way to the tunnel (after the riot broke out).


"The Albanian team said they were unfit physically and mentally to carry on after talking to the officials and they will now decide the fate of this match.


"We can only regret that football took a back seat but it is difficult to draw any conclusions or make any comments now."

The interruption lasted more than 50 minutes, and in the meantime the two national associations and UEFA delegates had a meeting on whether the match should resume. The Serbs voted for the match to be resumed, but Albanians would only agree to this if the stands were cleared of the Serb fans who had assaulted them.


Serbian media have claimed that the drone was controlled by Orfi Rama, brother of the Albanian prime minister Edi Rama, who was sitting in the VIP section. 


Apparently the drone was placed at the church near the stadium and Rama controlled it from the VIP section.


He was arrested at the stadium. Soon the police let him go, mainly because he had the USA passport and one can only imagine how complicated that could get.


There was another minor incident. During the live TV broadcast of the match on the Serbian national TV an incident occurred when a fan ran on the field, stood in front of the camera and sent insults to the Prime Minister of Serbia.


UEFA match delegate Harry Been said: "It is a regretful situation on which we will report; the referee, myself and the security advisor. The circumstances were such that we couldn't continue the match.


You all saw what happened and I cannot comment on who is to blame or what to blame. I will submit a report with my colleagues to UEFA and UEFA will decide what will happen further."


UEFA will decide the sanctions next Thursday.

 
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