Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Flag" Against Football

To hear the Western media tell it, the sight of an Albanian flag sent Serbs into paroxysms of rage at a soccer (football, in the non-US world) match with Albania yesterday, and the game was called off amid the riot.
Serbian player Stefan Mitrović calmly folding the Greater Albania banner, flown by a drone
during last night's Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade (photo:
Here is what actually happened: a drone (!) with a banner depicting the Nazi-allied "Greater Albania" flew onto the pitch. The British referee halted the game. A Serbian player grabbed the banner and began to fold it, whereupon the Albanian players attacked him. Outraged Serbian fans began throwing objects onto the pitch. Both the Serbian players and the police then shielded the Albanians and escorted them off the field until the disruption was sorted out. After the Albanians refused every reasonable offer to continue or reschedule the match, the game was abandoned.

The Serbian Football Association (FSS) has issued an official statement explaining the events:

"The interruption occurred in the 41st minute, after the appearance of the aforementioned banner from outside the stadium, carried by a drone that flew onto the pitch. The appearance of this object is a well-planned act political sabotage, as it was the only and key reason for the subsequent abandonment of the match. The referee, Martin Atkinson, stopped the clock, clearly expecting that the foreign object be removed straight away. Stefan Mitrović from the Serbian team managed at one point to catch the banner, and as all video footage clearly shows, began to roll it up peacefully, with the purpose of handing it over to the line referees and continuing the match. All the Serbian team members, coaches and officials were peacefully in their seats, without the slightest display of force or anger over the incident. However, the Albanian players acted aggressively and physically assaulted Mitrović.

The FSS wishes to thank the large number of fans at the stadium who remained in their seats and prevented potentially tragic outcomes of this deliberate political and ethnic provocation. Several individuals who ran onto the pitch, falling for the provocation, nonetheless wanted only to remove the offending banner. While we understand their motivation, such behavior cannot be tolerated. In accordance with the law and regulations, the FSS will file charges against the appropriate individuals, following the examination of security-camera footage. The same charges will be filed against the individual who barged into the RTS [Serbian TV] studio and chanted insults to the Serbian PM.

In the ensuing crisis, officials of the FSS took part in the subsequent UEFA meetings armed with the proper rules and procedures. With full responsibility, we hereby affirm that the referees and the UEFA match delegate decided to continue the game. The Serbian FA accepted the decision. Unfortunately, the Albanian FA and the team did not.

Wishing for football to triumph [over violence], we offered the delegate, the referees and the Albanian FA the following options the rules would allow:
  • to continue the match pursuant to the decision of the referees and the delegate; the Albanian FA refused
  • to continue the match after emptying out the stadium; the Albanian FA refused
  • to postpone the match and reschedule it for Wednesday, October 15 2014; the Albanian FA refused
Every proposal from the FSS was fully backed by the referees, UEFA delegate and other officials. The proposals were rejected by the leadership of the Albanian FA, as well as the team captain Cana, who represented the Albanian team.

Based on this, referee Atkinson told the Serbian captain Branislav Ivanović to lead his team onto the pitch, and show Serbia's readiness to play. This was done. 

After consulting with his team-mates, captain Cana officially confirmed that Albania, due to the mental inability of some players at the moment, did not wish to continue with the game. The referee then informed everyone present that there were four minutes of regular time and two minutes' worth of extension till the end of the first half.

The FSS notes that before the game, during the game, and after the game's interruption, not a single Albanian flag was set on fire, nor were there any inappropriate banners [from the Serbian side]. We also emphasize the fact that at every point in time, every member of the Albanian FA was guaranteed safety.

Events that led to the match's interruption, as well as the behavior and reactions of the Albanian team and their officials - who thereby became direct accomplices in an act of violence against football with clear political intent - indicate that this was a shamefully orchestrated incident with the purpose of interrupting the game in Belgrade. The FSS has never dodged responsibility, nor do we intend to do so now, but for the sake of truth and justice we will not stand for perpetrators of this rape of football now playing the victim.

The scandalous praise to the perpetrators - from the person who flew the drone with the offensive banner of "Greater Albania", insulting not just to the citizens of Serbia but also Greece, Montenegro and FYROM, to those who bragged about bringing the drone to Belgrade and posted photos on social media - for a "job well done"  is mocking not just the FSS and the people of Serbia, but also the UEFA. Even the Albanian PM made a statement to that effect, even as his brother has been suspected of bringing the drone into the stadium. How would the EU and UEFA, and the world media, react if such an insane and shameless scenario had been orchestrated by Serbian officials, in Albania?

Nor should we forget about the organized celebrations in several countries in the region, after the game was interrupted last night, when the interruption and the banner that caused it were cheered by the [Albanian\ participants. Such imagery was a clear confirmation that the FSS was right to propose that the games between Serbia and Albania ought to be played without the visiting fans.

Therefore, the FSS condemns all violence at the Partizan stadium, as well as the shameful political violence against football that violated all FIFA and UEFA regulations, and caused the game's interruption. The FSS also calls on the UEFA discipline bodies to react the same way as it did in the "Genoa Affair", using the same standards of judgment.

We greeted our guests form the Albanian FA in the best possible way. It is worrisome, then, that they did nothing at all to comply with the decision of the referees and the delegate to continue the game. Instead, they chose to interpret the UEFA rules and regulations as they wished. We therefore accuse them of being directly responsible for the interruption of the game, and expect the UEFA discipline bodies to officially register the game with a 3:0 result in favor of Serbia.

At the same time, we also caution the UEFA that events of last night could happen in other stadiums around Europe, so in the future, security measures ought to take into consideration this new "Albanian way" of disrupting football and its participants.

To sum up our position, the FSS is disgusted by the provocation displayed last night, and fears it was a premeditated terrorist act directed primarily against the Republic of Serbia."

(source here; translated by Gray Falcon)


Unknown said...

My friend, I was waiting for your take on this horrible provocation. I watched it live sadly. I was enraged, pissed off, out of my mind. I just can't take this "stuff" any more. I tried to find comfort by writing to the few Serbs I know here in Rome about how much I care about them but I'm still sickened. You can easily read all my FB posts to see what I think. Best regards from Rome :)


Unknown said...

Serbs alone are easy meat. Serbs + Bulgarians + Croats + Maks + Poles + Russians is another story.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the Americans organized the flag incident, because of Putin's visit to Belgrade.