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Dublin: 4°C Friday 5 March 2021

Albania PM's brother arrested as Euro qualifier abandoned

There was noticeable tension in the air during tonight’s clash between these two rivals.

Serbian riot police officers clash with soccer fans
Serbian riot police officers clash with soccer fans
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 23.40

The brother of Albania’s Prime Minister was arrested in Belgrade on Tuesday night, accused of starting the trouble that caused the abandonment of the Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania, Serbian state television RTS reported.

RTS cited the Serbian Interior Ministry to say that Olsi Rama, controlled a drone, from his seat in an executive box in the stadium, carrying a ‘Greater Albanian’ flag which flew over the pitch, triggering clashes between the two teams as some of the 20,000 home fans tried to assault Albanian players.

The incident, in the 41st minute of the Group I encounter at which Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic was also in attendance, led to its abandonment with the score still goalless.

Serbian fans hurled smoke bombs and other missiles onto the pitch in protest in a game from which Albanian fans had been barred by the Serbian federation on Sunday.

This incident comes just days before the highly sensitive visit of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, the first such visit in 68 years.

The Albanian Interior Ministry said they had been watching the events unfold anxiously and had been in contact with the staff of their counterparts in Belgrade to transmit a message from their Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri.

“The Serbian Government is responsible for the security, the life and health of the footballers and the Albanian delegation,” he said in his message.

Relations between Tirana and Belgrade have been fragile over Kosovo, a former Serbian province, and the ethnic Albanian minority in southern Serbia, who often demand more autonomy.

In Belgrade, some see Tirana’s interest as part of a plan aimed at creating a “Greater Albania” that would unite Albanian communities in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and southern Serbia.

Kosovo’s independence has been recognised by more than 100 countries, including the United States and most European Union member states.

Kosovo, the former Serbian province comprised mainly of Albanians, proclaimed its unilateral independence in February 2008.

The premature and violent end to the game was greeted with joy by nearly 5000 Kosovar Albanians gathered to watch it in their capital Pristina, shouting ‘Greater Albania’ and ‘victory’.

Source: FNTV - FootballNewsTV1/YouTube

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