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'Drone Melee' Halts Serbia-Albania Euro 2016 Qualifying Match

A UEFA qualifying match for the Euro 2016 football tournament was suspended on October 14 after fighting broke out between players, team officials, and fans at Partizan stadium in Belgrade. Tensions were high before the match, which marked the Albanian squad's first trip to Belgrade since the 1960s and Serbian nerves still raw over the sovereignty of Kosovo, the majority ethnic Albanian region of the former Yugoslavia that declared independence from Serbia in 2008. No Albanian fans were allowed to attend the match, in an effort to ensure safety. The sports European governing body said it would investigate, and the incident could lead to serious repercussions. Here's what happened:

Serbian police were out in force for the match at Belgrade's Partizan stadium ahead of the Euro 2016 group I match. (AFP/Andrej Isakovic)
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Serbian police were out in force for the match at Belgrade's Partizan stadium ahead of the Euro 2016 group I match. (AFP/Andrej Isakovic)

Serbian emotions were high, with fans burning a NATO flag in the stands during the action. As a precaution, no Albanian fans had been allowed to attend the match.
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Serbian emotions were high, with fans burning a NATO flag in the stands during the action. As a precaution, no Albanian fans had been allowed to attend the match.

The teams played through one stoppage and nearly 40 minutes of scoreless football until flares thrown toward the Albanian players interrupted play.
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The teams played through one stoppage and nearly 40 minutes of scoreless football until flares thrown toward the Albanian players interrupted play.

Then a seemingly remote-controlled drone appeared from the stands area, with a flag attached, before dropping low above the field on the Serbian side.
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Then a seemingly remote-controlled drone appeared from the stands area, with a flag attached, before dropping low above the field on the Serbian side.

As it approached the field, it became clear that a flag was bearing a "Greater Albania" emblem -- a notion that would extend to Kosovo.
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As it approached the field, it became clear that a flag was bearing a "Greater Albania" emblem -- a notion that would extend to Kosovo.

After the drone swooped very low over the players, Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovic leaped up and ripped the flag down.
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After the drone swooped very low over the players, Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovic leaped up and ripped the flag down.

Mitrovic was immediately confronted by Albanian players, one of whom pulled the flag away, as scuffles broke out and players, team officials, and fans stormed out onto the field.
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Mitrovic was immediately confronted by Albanian players, one of whom pulled the flag away, as scuffles broke out and players, team officials, and fans stormed out onto the field.

The scuffles grew more intense, and the local crowd reacted angrily...
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The scuffles grew more intense, and the local crowd reacted angrily...

...with some team officials and fans breaking through security and managing to approach and attack Albanian players.
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...with some team officials and fans breaking through security and managing to approach and attack Albanian players.

After about a minute of dangerous chaos and the crowd seemingly at fever pitch but the worst of the violence seemingly over, the Albanian team broke for the tunnel.
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After about a minute of dangerous chaos and the crowd seemingly at fever pitch but the worst of the violence seemingly over, the Albanian team broke for the tunnel.

Albanian team officials reportedly told English referee Martin Atkinson that they were in neither any physical nor psychological state to play after the melee.
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Albanian team officials reportedly told English referee Martin Atkinson that they were in neither any physical nor psychological state to play after the melee.

Serbian riot police clashed with the fans during the match...
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Serbian riot police clashed with the fans during the match...

...and with the Partizan melee in the books, UEFA has said it will take a long, hard look at the incident and is likely to dole out punishment.
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...and with the Partizan melee in the books, UEFA has said it will take a long, hard look at the incident and is likely to dole out punishment.

It was initially unclear who was responsible for the drone-and-flag that taunted the players and dove down near the field, but early unconfirmed reports in Serbian media blamed a brother of Albania's prime minister.
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It was initially unclear who was responsible for the drone-and-flag that taunted the players and dove down near the field, but early unconfirmed reports in Serbian media blamed a brother of Albania's prime minister.

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