Serbian & Albanian FAs charged by Uefa over abandoned qualifier

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Riot police had to be brought in to restore calm but the Serbia-Albania match was abandoned, as Wendy Urquhart reports

The Serbian and Albanian football associations have been charged by Uefa after violent incidents caused their Euro 2016 qualifier to be abandoned.

Players and fans clashed in Belgrade after a flag with a political message was flown into the stadium by a drone.

Albania are charged with "refusing to play" and the "display of an illicit banner", while Serbia face five charges related to Tuesday's crowd trouble.

Uefa's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body will hear the case on 23 October.

Albania captain Lorik Cana was reported as telling Albanian television that his team had not been in the "right psychological or physical state to continue playing" after the clashes.

The Serbian FA (FSS) is charged with insufficient organisation, crowd disturbance, setting off/throwing of fireworks and missiles, field invasion by supporters and the use of a laser pointer.

However, in a statement released earlier on Wednesday, the FSS accused its Albanian counterpart of being part of a political plot "whose sole aim was to force the game to be abandoned".

Serbia's Stefan Mitrovic is surrounded as he tries to pull down the Albanian flag
Trouble started when Serbia's Stefan Mitrovic tried to pull down the Albanian flag

"The incident itself and the behaviour of the Albanian players, coach and staff leaves no room for doubt that they were part of a synchronised plan to stop the match," the statement read.

"For the truth and justice we will not and do not want to allow the perpetrators who violated football to present themselves as victims."

That Albanian fans had been banned from attending the qualifier between the Balkan rivals was the latest incident in the history of turbulent relations between the nations.

Much of the conflict relates to the former Serbian province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 and has a mainly Albanian population.

It has been recognised by the United States and major European Union countries, but Serbia refuses to do so, as do most ethnic Serbs inside Kosovo.

How the incident unfolded
A drone carrying a nationalist Albanian banner is flown above the stands and pitch at the Partizan Stadium
Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic pulls down the flag, which several Albania players then attempt to take
A melee involving numerous players ensues, prompting English referee Martin Atkinson to lead the teams off the field after some fans got on to the pitch
Following a delay of about 30 minutes, the match is abandoned

Those tensions flared after Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic attempted to pull down the flag, which was carried into the stadium attached to a drone.

Fans also had to be escorted from the pitch by police.

The flag bore the Albanian black-eagle insignia, a map of a notional 'Greater Albania' and the faces of Ismail Qemali and Isa Boletini, two important figures in the era that centred around the country's independence in 1912.

English referee Martin Atkinson suspended play in the 41st minute with the score at 0-0 and Uefa confirmed the match had been abandoned after a delay of about 30 minutes.

Michel Platini, president of European football's governing body, described the scenes in Belgrade as "inexcusable".

Platini said he was "deeply saddened" by what had happened, adding: "Football is supposed to bring people together and our game should not be mixed with politics of any kind."

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said: "Football should never be used for political messages. I strongly condemn what happened in Belgrade."

Stefan Mitrovic
Stefan Mitrovic pulled down the flag before Albania players tried to grab it back
Serbia-Albania game abandoned
A skirmish between Serbian and Albanian players broke out on the pitch
Serbia-Albania game abandoned
Albania players leave the pitch during the Euro 2016 Group I game against Serbia
Serbia-Albania game abandoned
Serbian riot police surround Serbian supporters after a fight broke out on the pitch
Serbia-Albania game abandoned
A masked supporter pulls the drone that had carried the flag over the pitch

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