BELGRADE – Europe’s football ruling body, UEFA, on Friday punished both Serbia and Albania for a qualifier in Belgrade that had to be abandoned due to violence on the pitch.
Both Albania and Serbia reacted angrily and promised to appeal.
The match was registered as a 3-0 victory for Serbia.
However, UEFA deducted the resulting three points from Serbia’s total in the Euro 2016 qualifications group standings.
UEFA also fined the FSS 100,000 Euros (126,000 dollars) and ordered it to play two matches without spectators.
Albania lost the Oct.14 match by default, and was also fined 100,000 Euros.
The game at Belgrade’s JNA Stadium had to be abandoned when it was still goalless late in the first half, after players scuffled and spectators invaded the pitch.
The ruckus broke out after a remote controlled drone appeared above the pitch carrying a banner with a map of Greater Albania, a project envisaging the annexation of territories with the majority Albanian population in the Balkans.
Visiting players refused to return onto the pitch after the interruption.
The incident reflected the decades-old hostility between Serbs and Albanians, which peaked with the 1999 war in Kosovo, Serbia’s runaway province with the majority Albanian population.
Albanian football organisation (FSHF) chief Armand Duka blasted the verdict as `disappointing and unjust.’
“This outcome suits nobody, and is unjust,’’ Serbian media quoted him as saying.
“We will appeal and demand our rights. I believe the outcome will be different,’’ he told the local Ora Sport.
Prime Minister Edi Rama tweeted that FHSF should go through with legal proceedings.
“Today, there was no justice for what happened at the stadium in Belgrade. Go Albania.’’
FSS said after an emergency meeting that it, too, will appeal after it receives full documentation from UEFA.
Serbia said the decision was `contradictory’ because the match was registered as a win for Serbia, which was also fined by the deduction of points.
“The opposing side was found to be guilty, but at the same time, we were stripped of three points, which is 12.5 per cent of all points a team can win in our group,’’ it said.
Serbian Sport Minister Vanja Udovicic criticised the verdict as “contradictory and unjust,’’ insisting on the same logic.
“It makes no sense to lose three points and to win at the same time because, with that, the win is annulled; so, the question comes up what is the point of the default,’’ Udovicic said.
A long-time Serbian official with UEFA, Dusan Maravic, said that UEFA had judged Serbia with past offenses in mind, and not just on the organisational shortcomings of the match against Albania.
“UEFA based the decision … also on previous matches in which Serbia has had incidents,’’ Maravic told the Tanjug News Agency.
“With this, it made it clear that nothing else can be tolerated.’’
The verdict also displeased Euro qualifying Group I leaders, Denmark, because its supporters will now not be able to travel to watch the match against Serbia in spite of having already bought tickets and paid for the trip.
Serbia and its clubs have been sanctioned repeatedly for incidents fomented by unruly fans. The incidents ranged from violence on the streets, stands and the pitch, and racial abuse.
The football incident reheated the animosity of Serbs and Albanians and even led to the delay of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s visit to Belgrade from Oct. 22 to Nov. 10. (dpa/NAN)