UEFA punishes Serbia, Albania after Euro 2016 qualifier violence
UEFA awarded Serbia a 3-0 win over Albania in its Group I European Championship qualifier played Oct. 14 in Belgrade but deducted three points reserved for a win after violence that broke out during the match, the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body announced Friday.
The nine-member disciplinary panel of soccer’s governing body in Europe also ordered Serbia to play their next two home qualifiers behind closed doors without fans. The next home qualifier for Serbia is Nov. 14 against Denmark.
Albania and Serbia both were fined $126,410, and Albania said it will appeal the decision.
Serbia was charged with crowd disturbance, a pitch invasion, setting off fireworks, "insufficient organization" and the use of a laser pen, while Albania was found guilty for the "display of an illicit banner" as well as leaving the match and refusing to play.
"I am disillusioned because we were claiming a legal verdict from UEFA," Albanian Football Federation President Armand Duka told TV station Ora-News. "I do not understand what precedent this may set when a squad physically beats the opposing players on the pitch. I do not know if there is a greater scandal than this."
The scoreless match was stopped in the 41st minute after fighting broke out between players and fans after a drone was flown in the stadium.
During the match, Serbian fans mocked the Albanian anthem, while supporters threw flares and broken seats at the Albanian players and yelled “Kill the Albanians."
A drone with a banner showing a map of "greater Albania" including Greece, Macedonia and Serbia was then flown the stadium during a stoppage in play. Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovicer pulled down the banner and was quickly met by Albanian players who tried to save the banner.
The Albanians left the pitch, went to their locker room and refused to return, causing the match to be forfeited.
The countries and peoples have shared a long, contentious history in the Balkan region and have often come into armed conflict, most recently in the 1990s over the region of Kosovo. Previously a part of Serbia, the region became an independent state in 2008.
Albanians claim to have a majority in Kosovo, and both sides continue to disagree over the country's allegiances.
The qualifying match was the first between the squads in Belgrade since 1967.
- Scooby Axson