The Serbian FA have released a statement in response to the shocking scenes during their match against Albania in Belgrade last night, when a drone carrying a 'Greater Albania' flag caused a mass brawl between players and officials on both sides, as well as some Serbian fans. They say that the incident was a "terrorist action planned in advance".
UPDATE 18:40: Albania have been charged by UEFA for "refusing to play", as well as the display of an "illicit banner".
Serbia have been charged with "insufficient organisation" due to fireworks, missiles, crowd disturbance, a pitch invasion and the use of a laser pointer.
The case will be dealt with by Uefa’s control, ethics and disciplinary body on 23 October.
Serbian TV reported that the drone was controlled from within the stadium by Olsi Rama, brother of the current Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama. Ordinary Albanian fans were banned from the stadium under penalty of arrest. Reports that Rama was susbsquently arrested have not been confirmed.
Written in the style of a first-year politics student pulling an all-nighter and desperately trying to meet a word count, the statement places full blame on the Albanian contingent for the fracas that ensued, by citing what they say are "certain undisputable facts regarding last night's match". It says that Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovic took possession of the flag and "started to fold it as calmly as possible in order to give it to the fourth official." You can judge the nature of Mitrovic's actions for yourself from the footage above. The action provoked a furious response from the Albanian players. The statement attempts to absolve the entire Serbian bench of any misconduct:
Absolutely all of the Serbian players and officials on the bench were in their seats, calm and without any attempt to show force or rage because of the incident. However, Albanian players acted very aggressively and physically attacked Mitrovic.
The Serbs claim that the Albanian Football Federation refused an offer to have the game restarted. They also said that the Albanian officials refused to replay the fixture either today, or last night after the stands had been emptied.
They claim that their proposals had the full support of the match referee Martin Atkinson and the UEFA delegate, Harry Been. They said that Atkinson even suggested that the Serbian team go back onto the field to show their willingness to have the match restarted.
This account of events was not confirmed by comments made by Harry Been, who said that the circumstances prevented the game from being restarted, but did not say whether he or atkinson has encouraged Serbia to return to the field. He said:
It is a regretful situation on which we will report; the referee, myself and the security advisor. The circumstances were such that we couldn’t continue the match.
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 statement goes on to ask how the EU and UEFA would respond had the incident involved a Serbian flag in Albania.
Now we ask: how the world, many politicians, EU and UEFA representatives would react if such a crazy, shameless scenario was to happen in Albania and directed by our "officials"?
They then go on to demand that Albania be punished as severely as Serbia were in the aftermath of the riot in Genoa in October 2010 - the game was awarded to Italy as a 3-0 victory. They said:
We welcomed our guests from the Albanian FF in the best possible way. Because of that, we are truly worried by the fact that, after decision of the match officials (delegate and referee) for the match to be continued, they did not do anything for that to happen. They simply took UEFA rules in their own hands interpreting them as they preferred.
According to that, we estimate that they are directly guilty for the match abandonment and we expect that UEFA disciplinary bodies will register the match with 3:0 result, in favour of Serbia.
The full Serbian FA statement is well worth a read and can be viewed here.