PHOTO GALLERY: Serbia, Albania face UEFA sanctions after drone stunt and mass brawl
UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian and Albanian football associations after violence broke out at their Euro 2016 qualifier on Tuesday.
The match was abandoned.
In a statement on Wednesday, UEFA sais: “Disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Football Association of Serbia for the setting off/ throwing of fireworks and missiles, crowd disturbance, field invasion by supporters, insufficient organisation and use of a laser pointer.”
Serbia’s foreign minister said the action - in which a pro-Albanian flag was shown - sparked violence and called it a “political provocation”.
The Euro 2016 qualifier between the Balkan rivals had to be abandoned on Tuesday after a banner showing claims for a “Greater Albania” was flown by drone low over the Partizan Stadium in Belgrade.
The flag was pulled down by Serbian player Stefan Mitrovic, triggering a brawl between the two teams.
Some of the 20,000 Serbian supporters ran on to the pitch and attempted to kick and punch the Albanian players until the referee ordered the teams to leave the field as smoke flares and other missiles rained down from the stands.
Riot police eventually moved in to restore calm.
Albanian fans had been banned from attending the match.
The violence could endanger Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's planned historic visit to Serbia and risks inflaming fresh ethnic tensions in the Balkans.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic warned of the “clear intentions” of those responsible to “provoke unrest in Serbia and... destabilise the whole region”.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic had described the incident earlier as a carefully planned “political provocation”. He blamed Rama’s brother Olsi for orchestrating the stunt.
Belgrade accused the brother of controlling the drone from his seat in the stadium’s executive box, but Olsi denied any involvement.
The incident drew widespread condemnation. FIFA boss Sepp Blatter said football “should never be used for political messages", while the European Commission said it was “disappointed” by the violence.
UEFA president Michel Platini described the scenes as “inexcusable”.
“Imagine if there had been a bomb instead of a flag on the drone,” Platini told French television channel TF1.
UEFA opened a formal probe against the Football Association of Serbia over crowd disturbances, while the Football Association of Albania faces charges of refusing to play and displaying an illicit banner.
The case will be heard on Oct 23.
A Serbian policeman searches the belongings of Albania's defender Ansi Agolli (R) as police look for the remote control of the drone that flew a flag with Albanian national symbols.
Albanian fans celebrate in Tirana's main square following the abandoned UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Albania and Serbia.
Photos: AFP, Reuters
Sources: Reuters, AFP