UEFA president Michel Platini has described the violence that marred the Serbia versus Albania European qualifier as 'inexcusable' and a disciplinary case has now been opened.
UEFA has launched an investigation into the events that led to the mass brawl on the pitch, after a drone appeared carrying a flag bearing the message 'Greater Albania' just before the end of the first half.
"The scenes in Belgrade last night were inexcusable" - Michel Platini
It sparked nasty scenes between the two sets of players and cleared the benches, leading the game to be abandoned. Serbia may now have to play matches in empty stadiums while the Albanian FA faces a large fine.
"Football is supposed to bring people together and our game should not be mixed with politics of any kind," Platini said as reported by The Guardian. "The scenes in Belgrade last night were inexcusable."
FIFA president Sepp Blatter followed a similar tone, saying: "Football should never be used for political messages, I strongly condemn what happened in Belgrade last night."
The tension centres on the situation in Kosovo, a territory predominately occupied by ethnic Albanians that declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
"We will open disciplinary cases against both federations this morning" - UEFA spokesman
The two countries agreed before the match to travel without away support, meaning there was no Albanian fans in the stadium. But when the drone appeared carrying the 'Greater Albania' flag, it angered the crowd and Serbian player Stefan Mitrovic pulled it down.
A couple of Albania players wanted the flag from Mitrovic, and a scuffle ensued, which led to a full-on brawl with players, coaching staff and supporters that managed to breach the security defences involved.
The Albanian players fled down the tunnel, refused to reappear and the game was abandoned.
UEFA waited for the match reports from English referee Martin Atkinson, their own security official and the match observer before confirming: "We will open disciplinary cases against both federations this morning."
The match delegate, Harry M Been, said: “We regret the situation. You all saw what happened and I cannot comment on who is to blame or what to blame. I will submit a report with my colleagues to Uefa and Uefa will decide what will happen further.”
The Albanian FA and Serbian FA now have seven days to present their cases to UEFA, as both national associations face financial punishments while Serbia could be forced to play future European qualifiers behind closed doors.
Albanian Prime Minister involved?
In another strange twist, Serbian media outlets were reporting after the match that the drone may have been controlled by Orfi Rama, the brother of the Albanian prime minister Edi Rama, who was sitting in the VIP area of the stadium.
As reported by The Guardian, the Serbian government confirmed Mr Rama was arrested at the venue but was then released.
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