Massive troubles in Belgrade as neighbors compete for spot in “France 2016”
Team Albania took cover quickly as home fans hurled objects at them
It was a night for football to forget as the Albanian national team visited Belgrade, Serbia for the first leg of the France 2016 Qualifiers.
The game was going all but smoothly up until the 42nd minute, and then it got ugly. A drone with the flag of Albania in the shape of Greater Albania was flown into the stadium from an unknown party. As it came down, the Serbs were not impressed, and defender Stefan Mitrovic pulled down the flag in a disrespectful manner and soon multiple Albanians ran in hostile towards him feeling provoked. Eventually, Serbian fans jumped onto the field in order to defend the Serbian players and it turned into an all out brawl.
As the game had progressed thus far there had not been nearly as much action on field as there had been in the stands. Chants along the lines “kill the Albanians” had been loud in the Belgrade sky. UEFA, the organizing football body for Europe, was well aware of the risk when these two teams were paired together. Pre-game, UEFA warned Albanian fans to stay away from the stadium, and the Partizan was loaded with Serbian police.
Many club teams are famous for violent fans like FC Galatasaray (Turkey) or Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), but nationally it doesn’t get much worse than the sights on display in Serbia’s leg of the two game series. Serbian fans were often seen launching flares into the stadium, almost always in the direction of the Albanian net.
Coming into the stadium, it was always looking to be Serbia’s game as they boasted a dangerous back four of Ivanovic, Mitrovic, Kolarov and Nastasic, as well as fifth man Nejma Matic. On the other end, it was familiar sights as the Albanian lineup was made up of players lacking reputation. In addition to Serbia’s overwhelming defensive force, the odds were ever in their favor with home advantage.
Even considering the circumstances and the fact that Serbia were heavy favorites Albania held their own at the other end continually attacking down the middle and forcing the Serbian defensive unit to stop every offensive the Eagles came through with. Serbia dominated the wings but with weak crossing, the home crowd was left disappointed as for the on field action.
The football governing body of Europe, UEFA, stepped in and the match was abandoned. At a later date, UEFA decided that Serbia would be awarded the match 3-0 by forfeit. At the same time, Serbia would be stripped of the 3 points they would earn from a win in qualification for France 2016. The fate of the second leg in Elbasan, Albania is yet to be decided.
It was all but a mere game of football, as politics once again ruled over the beautiful game.