A brawl broke out during a European soccer game between Serbia and Albania on Tuesday—and it started with a drone. Just before halftime of the match with the score tied at zero, things began to unravel on the pitch. A flare stopped play briefly, before a drone flew over the pitch flying a banner with an Albanian flag and nationalist symbols. “Dangling from the drone was the Albanian national flag, adorned with a map of Kosovo and the word “autochthonous” (“indigenous”),” the Washington Post reports. “The autonomous region, which the Serbian government refuses to recognize as independent, is home to many Albanian players.”
Serbia's Stefan Mitrović grabbed the banner and chaos ensued. Albanian players immediately intervened shoving Mitrović, trying to take the banner. The stadium in Belgrade did not have any visiting Albanian fans because the nation’s supporters were essentially banned from attending the away match between the Balkan rivals for fear of violence. It was the first game Albania had played in Serbia since 1967.
Both teams ultimately fled to their locker rooms as fans threw objects and ran onto the field, causing the match to be abandoned. “Serbia and Albania have a history of turbulent relations, predominantly in relation to the former Serbian province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008,” the BBC reports. “It has been recognised by the United States and major European Union countries, but Serbia refuses to do, as do most ethnic Serbs inside Kosovo.”
The drone was the tipping point of what was already an unruly affair. From the Post: “Even before the drone incident, the atmosphere was heated. Fans of Serbia burned NATO flags. Riot police were already clashing with fans. Nationalistic chants rumbled in the stadium. It was a mess, made worse by the drone.”