In the aftermath to yesterday’s disturbing drone and brawl incident at the EURO 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania, UEFA has announced that both countries face sanctions.
It was a grim site for soccer when a drone carrying an Albanian flag (which was depicted on a map of the highly disputed nation of Kosovo) flew into the stadium before Serbia’s Stefan Mitrovic tore it down.
That act sparked outrage and within minutes the Group I match, being played in Belgrade with only Serbian fans in attendance, broke into a melee between players and fans alike.
The Serbian FA thereafter accused their rivals of a “pre-planned terrorist action” while Serbian media and the country’s foreign minister blamed the brother of Albanian prime minister of Edi Rama. The brother, Olsi Rama, is an American citizen who had reportedly been arrested in the stadium after being seen with a remote control. Rama confirmed that he had been held by police but denied being arrested and claims not to be responsible: “I’ve never used a drone in my life, only bought my son a toy helicopter,” said Rama.
UEFA president Michel Platini condemned this incident saying: “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.” While FIFA president Sepp Blatter noted: “Football should never be used for political messages. I strongly condemn what happened in Belgrade.”
On Wednesday, UEFA charged Serbia with setting off fireworks, crowd disturbance, a pitch invasion, “insufficient organisation” and the use of a laser pen while Albania were charged with refusing to play and the “display of an illicit banner”. Serbia claims they requested to UEFA that the match be played after the stadium had emptied but Albania refused.
If charges against Serbia are proven they are expected to have to play several games behind closed doors. Both countries have seven days to plead their case with a decision to be made on October 23rd by UEFA’s disciplinary committee.