The two countries historically have had political tensions
Updated Wednesday, Oct. 15
Officials abandoned a soccer match between Serbia and Albania Tuesday after a drone carrying an Albanian banner was flown into the stadium, sparking brawls among players and fans.
The flag flown over the Euro 2016 qualifier game depicted Greater Albania, a conceptual state formed from all territories where ethnic Albanians live, according to Reuters. Yet many Serbs believe the region should still be united as Yugoslavia.
The banner, which was flown into the stadium near the end of the match’s first half, was soon pulled down by Serbia’s Stefan Mitrovic as punches were exchanged between players. Some fans started throwing garbage at the Albanian players.
Serbian officials on Wednesday accused Olsi Rama, the brother of Albania’s Prime Minister, of flying the drone above the field and causing the disruption, and authorities in Belgrade have arrested him, RTS reports. However, AFP reports that a source close to Rama said he had not been arrested in Belgrade.
The atmosphere was politically charged even before the match began, Fox Sports reports. The two countries have had a tense relationship since the conflict around Kosovo, the predominantly ethnically Albanian province of Serbia that was declared independent in 2008.
Serbia did not acknowledge the independence, and mediations under the European Union in 2013 led to Serbia abolishing nearly all of its political institutions in Kosovo. The game, held in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, was also Albania’s first match in the country since 1967, according to the Union of European Football Associations.
The game was abandoned after 45 minutes of unrest. The score was 0-0.