Football Association of Serbia on EURO qualifier incident

After the October 14 UEFA EURO 2016 Group I qualifier between Serbia and Albania (0:0, 41st minute, FK Partizan Stadium, Belgrade) abandonment, the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) issued the following press release:

Football Association of Serbia is expressing regret that the match between Serbia and Albania did not finish in a sports manner, as a very important event of two countries' best teams should have.

In atmosphere that has not been seen for a long time in Serbia, with support of fans acting like one, Serbian National team players, with their good game, were heading towards an important victory on their way to France 2016. Unfortunately, because of a provocation from the opponent's side, started by entering a flag of non-existing so-called "Great Albania" that as such offends feelings of all citizens of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece, with help of a drone that came from outside of the stadium, and that was continued by inappropriate scenes on the pitch, the match was not finished in the usual way and therefore our national team players lost chance to show who was better and of more quality in a fair, sportsmanlike and chivalrous contest.

At this moment we do not want to deal with presumptions about the final solution. We do emphasise that while preparing this match we were in constant touch with all appropriate and relevant state authorities.

However, we would like to inform domestic and foreign public about certain indisputable facts regarding last night's match between Serbia and Albania:

1. Match suspension was in the 41st minute, upon appearance of the mentioned flag that came from outside of the stadium, carried by a drone and as such found itself in the space foreseen for the game. Appearance of the object is a well-planned political diversion. It will turn out that it was the only and key reason for definite abandonment of the match that came later on. Referee Martin Atkinson stopped the match, expecting for the object to be removed. The act that the referee stopped the match was a clear sign that it had to be removed immediately. At one moment, Serbian player Stefan Mitrović managed to catch the flag and, as it can be clearly seen on all the footages, started to fold it as calmly as possible, in order to give it to the fourth official and for the match to be continued. Absolutely all of the Serbian players and officials on the bench were in their seats, calm and without any attempt to show force or rage because of the incident. However, Albanian players acted very aggressively and physically attacked Mitrović.

2. By this way FA of Serbia would like to thank to enormous number of supporters present at the stadium, who remained in their seats and behaving as they did, contributed for the mentioned nationally and politically based provocation not to end with tragic consequences. Unfortunately, individuals who entered the pitch succumbed to the provocation and wanted only one thing - to remove the mentioned flag. Regardless understanding we have, we must not tolerate such an act and FA of Serbia will press charges against them, all in accordance with the law, legal regulations and obligations, and after reviewing footage of security cameras. Furthermore, the same procedure will be started against a person who broke into the Radio Television Serbia studio and sent offensive messages to the Prime Minister of Republic of Serbia.

3. What came next were moments of acting in crisis circumstances. Forming a group of appropriate officials and being familiar with all steps and rules, members of the FA of Serbia took part in UEFA meetings in the best possible way. We declare under full responsibility that the match referee and the match delegate made a decision for the match to be continued. FA of Serbia and our representatives accepted that, but unfortunately not the people from the Albanian FF and their national team.

4. Wanting only football game to be the winner, we proposed the following options foreseen by the relevant regulations to the delegate, referees and Albanian FF:

- For the match to be continued according to the decision of the referee and delegate - Albanian FF refused that

- For the match to be continued after emptying the stands - Albanian FF refused that

- For the match to be postponed and played on Wednesday, 15th October 2014 - Albanian FF refused that

For every of the proposed options FA of Serbia had full support of all relevant authorities - match referees, match delegate and other match officials.

Proposals had also been refused by the highest officials of the Albanian FF and also by their team captain Cana who was present on behalf of their national team.

Further to all the above, referee Atkinson told our captain Branislav Ivanović to take the team to the pitch and therefore show decisiveness of Serbia to play, which was done accordingly.

After few consultations with his teammates, Albanian team captain Cana officially confirmed that Albania did not want to continue with the match, out of reason that some of the players were mentally unfit at that moment.

Referee Atkinson informed the present people that there were four remaining minutes of the game in the first half and up till then already defined two minutes of additional time.

5. FA of Serbia emphasise that before and during the played part of the match, and also after the match was abandoned neither any of the Albanian flags had been burnt nor there had been any banners with inappropriate content. Furthermore, we strongly stress the fact that at all times safety was guaranteed to every member of the Albanian FF delegation.

Events that happened during the match and that resulted in the match to be abandoned have shown us one incredible synchronisation of the whole event that had only one aim - to cause abandonment of the match in Belgrade! And let us immediately stress that Football Association of Serbia has never evaded responsibility, that is not our intention now, but for the truth and justice we will not and do not want to allow the perpetrators who violated football to present themselves as victims.

It is a scandalous fact that the other party, with their "job well done" is ridiculing not only FA of Serbia and Serbian people but also, we dare to say, UEFA. Starting with the person detained for questioning who operated the drone with the flag of "Great Albania", the flag that offends not only Serbian citizens, but also people of Greece, Montenegro and FYR Macedonia, to those who now boast they had brought that drone to Belgrade and display photos on social networks. It is devastating and also easily seen through that even the Albanian Prime Minister himself spoke, he, whose brother allegedly was directly responsible for taking the drone into the stadium! Now we ask: how the world, many politicians, EU and UEFA representatives would react if such a crazy, shameless scenario was to happen in Albania and directed by our "officials"? Also, do not forget organised festivities in the countries of the region after the last night's match was abandoned, when the mentioned flag and abandoned match were celebrated. Those events are in favour of the idea of the FA of Serbia for both matches between Serbia and Albania to be played without guest supporters.

Because of all that, FA of Serbia strongly condemn scenes of violence at the FK Partizan stadium, but also football being shamefully politicized, what is contrary to all UEFA and FIFA regulations and what is the main reason of the match being abandoned. Football Association of Serbia also request from UEFA disciplinary bodies to react as in the Genoa case and act according to the same criteria.

We welcomed our guests from the Albanian FF in the best possible way. Because of that, we are truly worried by the fact that, after decision of the match officials (delegate and referee) for the match to be continued, they did not do anything for that to happen. They simply took UEFA rules in their own hands interpreting them as they preferred. According to that, we estimate that they are directly guilty for the match abandonment and we expect that UEFA disciplinary bodies will register the match with 3:0 result, in favour of Serbia.

At the same time, we warn UEFA that, sadly, something like this can also happen on other stadiums all around Europe and future safety measures should also foresee this new "Albanian way" of acting against football and all parties involved.

Summarizing all, FA of Serbia are aghast by the seen provocation and are afraid that this is scenario of a terrorist action planned in advance, above all directed against interests of our country, Republic of Serbia.