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Soccer match abandoned over drone antics

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2014

A Euro 2016 qualifying match between Albania and Serbia was abandoned today after a drone flying a banner with a map of Kosovo and the Albanian flag on it hovered over the pitch.

Tensions increased further when the flag was snared by Serbia’s Stefan Mitrovic, who then pulled on the strings connecting it to the drone. He was immediately confronted by Albanian players, and a shoving match ensued.

The match was abandoned after a lengthy delay. At the recommendation of UEFA, no Albanian fans were allowed into the stadium for the match in Belgrade due to tensions between the two nations. Kosovo, where the population includes both ethnic Serbs and Albanians, declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, a declaration that the Serbians dispute. Nick Ames wrote a soccer-centric take on the tensions between the two nations.

It comes down, really, to Kosovo — and that is a phrase that can be applied as shorthand for Serbian-Albanian relations as a whole. As Tim Judah writes in his seminal history, The Serbs: “So poisoned is the whole subject of Kosovo that when Albanian or Serbian academics come to discuss its history, especially its modern history, all pretence of impartiality is lost.”

Kosovo, situated to the south of Serbia and the north-east of Albania, declared independence in 2008 having previously been part of Serbia. The Serbs still regard it as their own, but it is recognised by 56 percent of UN member states and its ethnic makeup is, depending on which side you refer to, overwhelmingly Albanian. (It’s worth noting that figures vary wildly.)

The emotional significance goes as far back as 1389, when the Serbs were defeated by the Ottoman army in the Battle of Kosovo, which took place near its modern-day capital, Pristina. It has been much-mythologised in Serbian history. Far more recently, memories of the 1998-99 Kosovo War — an appallingly brutal fight for the territory from which it has not really recovered — still run deep.

FYI: the YouTube embed above was recorded off of a TV…if you’re in the US, the ESPN story has better video.