Serbian police recover drone that flew Albanian banner during Euro qualifier
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Serbian police have found the drone that flew an Albanian nationalist banner over a soccer stadium in Belgrade, igniting a brawl on the field and fueling political tensions between Balkan rivals Serbia and Albania.
The small drone with four rotors – last seen being carried off by a Serb fan during the stadium brawl Tuesday night – will be checked to see where it was manufactured and purchased and who could have flown it, police chief Nebojsa Stefanovic said Thursday.
He accused Albanians of being ”exclusively” to blame for the clashes.
The violence broke out after the drone, dangling a map of Albania enlarged to include chunks of several neighbors, circled over the field during the first half of Tuesday night’s game. The match was later abandoned.
Serbia and Albania have been at odds for decades, mainly over Kosovo, a former ethnic Albanian-dominated Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia has never accepted Kosovo’s independence.
UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, opened disciplinary cases against both countries over the game. Besides the brawls on the field, the Albanian anthem was loudly jeered by Serbian fans before the game in Belgrade and derogatory chants were heard throughout. Serbian supporters also threw flares and other objects at Albanian players, as well as attacking them on the field.
The Albanian Football Federation said Thursday that its players were repeatedly hit by fans and police and had to endure offensive chants like ”Kill the Albanians!” It defended the Albanian players’ decision not to continue the match.
”The AFA is of the opinion that the … mentioned actions negatively impacted the normal conduct of the match, which was ultimately abandoned,” the federation said.