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Drone Carries Flag Over Serbia-Albania Soccer Match, Nationalist Violence Follows

Nationalist tensions have long played out in soccer stadiums. But Tuesday might have been the first time they exploded into on-field violence because of a drone. Serbian-Albanian relations are so volatile that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) banned Albanian soccer fans from attending Tuesday’s match against Serbia in Belgrade. So when a small ...

ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images; ALEXA STANKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images; ALEXA STANKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images

Nationalist tensions have long played out in soccer stadiums. But Tuesday might have been the first time they exploded into on-field violence because of a drone.

Serbian-Albanian relations are so volatile that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) banned Albanian soccer fans from attending Tuesday’s match against Serbia in Belgrade. So when a small drone trailing a map of historically Albanian territories hovered over the field a few minutes before halftime, Serbian players — and a stadium full of fans — got mad. Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic pulled the drone from the air, Albanian players approached in protest, and a melee ensued:

 

 

Serbia fans then ran a classic course of nationalist hooliganism infused with decades of political and ethnic tensions: They rushed the field to brawl with players, pelted the Albanian squad with stadium chairs, and burned a NATO flag, which presumably was brought along for the purpose.

 

 

The scene ended with the Albanian team running to their lockers and the cancellation of the match, a qualifier for the 2016 European Championship and the Albanian squad’s first trip to Belgrade since 1967. Neither team scored in just under 42 minutes of play.

 

 

The future of stadium violence feels a lot like the past.

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