After the abandonment of Serbia's Euro 2016 qualifier with Albania on Tuesday evening (Albania's first visit to Belgrade since 1967) the two countries' #Football Associations will between them face seven charges brought against them by UEFA. It is a prompt reaction to the shameful scenes that dominated the sporting and news' headlines and cast a dark shadow over the game of football across Europe, as political tensions between the two nations' sparked scenes of violence inside Belgrade's Partizan Stadium.
The Serbian FA have been accused of the following charges:
- the setting off / throwing of fireworks and missiles
- crowd disturbance
- pitch invasion by supporters
- insufficient organisation
- use of a laser pointer
The Albanian FA have less charges levelled against them, but still have to account for suggestions of "refusing to play" and "display of an illicit banner".
The game between the two countries was still tied at 0-0 when English referee Martin Atkinson decided to abandon the game just before half-time, after originally attempting to allow matters to calm down by taking the players from the field of play. The reasoning had nothing to do with football issues, more from a flashpoint after a drone trailing a pro-Albania banner and "Greater Albania" flag (which incorporates the disputed area of Kosovo) was seen over the stadium. The efforts that followed by the Serbian players (including Stefan Mitrovic and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic) to remove the attachments to the drone sparked a mass brawl with players, staff from the countries on the touchline and several fans all involved. It is believed that the Albanian players were attempting to 'rescue' their flag, but as tempers rose a mass fracas resulted.
Several fans ran on to the pitch to get involved, including one who threw a chair at Albanian player Bekim Balaj, with Serbian riot police attempting to restore some semblance of order to proceedings.
Atkinson's decision to get the players off the pitch was a sensible precaution given how feelings had intensified, in an attempt to safeguard their safety. However, as they headed to the tunnel that led them off the pitch, more missiles were thrown at them from the crowd, among the "debris" used were a number of plastic seats. Masked fans tried to attack players as well before they could reach cover.
After a half hour suspension of play, UEFA confirmed that the game would not carry on citing that this was "due to a disturbance on the pitch".
Speculation as to where the drone had come from initially suggested that it may have been Albanian fans outside the ground using a remote control, but other rumours suggest that the operators may actually have been somewhere inside the ground.
Tensions were already high at the match as flares had been thrown earlier on by Serbian fans. Indeed Albanian fans had been banned from entering the Partizan Belgrade stadium due to long running tensions between the nations (particularly over Kosovo), with the hope that this might diffuse any potential for such flare ups.
It was yet another black day in the history of Serbian football after other unseemly scenes in their recent footballing history, including a similar incident in Genoa in 2010 when an Euro qualifier against Italy was abandoned and awarded to the home team following scenes of Serbian fans rioting. Indeed onlookers at Tuesday's match have observed that one of the "fans" who invaded the pitch was Ivan Bogdanov, a Serbian ultra who was jailed after the Genoa match was abandoned. Only last month a small minority of Serb fans sported anti semantic banners in the crowd for an Europa League tie against Spurs, and two years earlier there were ugly scenes during the under-21 international between Serbia and England.
The Serbians may well cite heavy provocation this time around, but the fact that the rest of Europe and the world witnessed the shocking scenes will not go in their favour one feels and UEFA will surely look to apply suitable penalties against them this time, to make a strong statement of their non tolerance of such behaviour in future. The hearing is due on 23rd October. #Euro2016UEFA president Michel Platini described the shocking scenes as "inexcusable" and Fifa president, Sepp Blatter echoed those sentiments in condemning the events.