Serbia and Albania facing stiff Uefa sanctions over melee

Serbia and Albania are facing stiff sanctions after Uefa charged the countries with a number of offences following the abandoned Euro 2016 qualifier this week in Belgrade.

Serbia and Albania facing stiff Uefa sanctions over melee

The match was abandoned after a melee erupted after a mini unmanned drone trailed a pro-Albania flag over the stadium. Uefa has announced that disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the football associations of both countries.

Serbia have been charged with the throwing of missiles and fireworks, crowd disturbance, invasion of the pitch by supporters, insufficient organisation and use of a laser pointer.

Albania have been charged with refusing to play and the display of an illicit banner.

Both countries are likely to be handed heavy fines and other sanctions, including possible points deductions, when UEFA’s disciplinary body hears the case on October 23. Albania faces forfeiting the match and Serbia could play future games behind closed doors, but Uefa is not expected to expel the countries from the competition.

Uefa president Michel Platini has described the incidents in the Partizan Stadium which followed the drone trailing a flag of Greater Albania banner — which incorporates parts of various other countries including Kosovo — as “inexcusable”.

The flag was hauled down by Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic and then brawls erupted involving players, officials and fans before English referee Martin Atkinson led the teams off the field with score at 0-0 as disruption in the stands threatened to boil over, with objects being thrown onto the pitch at Albanian players.

Platini said: “Football is supposed to bring people together and our game should not be mixed with politics of any kind.”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter added: “Football should never be used for political messages. I strongly condemn what happened in Belgrade.”

Neither country had requested they be kept apart in the draw, and the other main criteria which could also persuade Uefa to keep them separate — being involved in an armed conflict and not having diplomatic relations — did not apply.

Uefa did keep apart Russia and Ukraine, Spain and Gibraltar and Armenia and Azerbaijan. Albanian supporters had been banned from entering the stadium by Uefa on safety grounds and the match was set against a backdrop of tight security.

Tensions have never been far from the surface between the nations over Kosovo, the province with which both countries share a disputed border and is recognised as independent by the United States and major European Union countries but not by Serbia — a bone of contention with Albania.

Albania’s captain Lorik Cana told Albanian television his players were attacked by stewards inside the tunnel.

The Albania squad returned to a heroes’ reception, with up to 3,000 flag-waving supporters gathering outside Tirana’s airport to welcome the team home.

Albanian prime minister Edi Rama praised the players on Twitter for “the pride and joy they gave us” — though Serbian TV has alleged the prime minister’s brother was the man responsible for controlling the drone in the stadium.

The Serbian FA has launched fierce criticism of Albania claiming their team acted with restraint despite being provoked by the “offensive” flag and were then attacked when they tried to remove it from the field.

It said Albania’s response to the controversy had been “scandalous” and suggested it had been a “scenario of a terrorist action planned in advance”.

Serbia’s FA say they asked Uefa to finish the match after emptying the stadium or to replay it this week but the Albania FA refused.

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