World Bulletin/News Desk
Albanians gathered on the streets of Kosovo, Tirana and Macedonia on Wednesday to herald their nation after a highly-charged Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned Tuesday night.
The game was called off amid fighting between the two sides after a Serbian player wrenched a controversial flag from a plane being flown by remote control over the pitch, causing chaos on the field and in the stands.
In the Albanian capital Wednesday, crowds gathered on the main boulevard to greet their players as heroes chanting "Albania is great," similar celebrations taking place in Skopje, and Pristina, the capital of Kosovo where Albanians make up the majority of the population.
Away supporters were barred from the game -- the Albanian football team's first visit to the Serbian capital since 1967 -- which was played against a highly sensitive political backdrop given long-running tensions between the two countries over Kosovo.
The southeastern European state declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 as the Republic of Kosovo. It has a majority ethnic Albanian population. Seven of Albania's starting 11 on Tuesday night were reported to be of Kosovan origin.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama stated on his Facebook site that he was proud of his team -- who were drawing 0-0 at the time -- but saddened that the incident took place in front of a worldwide TV audience.
Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said in a statement that he was concerned for their safety, stating that the Serbian government is responsible for the safety of players and fans.
With the score goalless in the 41st minute, defender Stefan Mitrovic leapt to grab the flag -- emblazoned with a map of Greater Albania and the message "AUTOCHTHONOUS" -- leading to fighting between players and team officials from both sides.
The “Greater Albania” territory referred to includes Albania, Kosovo, and some territories from Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, while autochthonous suggests that Albanians were autonomous in these territories, centuries before the Serbs are understood to have come to the Balkans.
As Albanian players grabbed the flag from Mitrovic, supporters in the stands of Belgrade's Partizan Stadium erupted. Some ran onto the pitch, one throwing punches and attacking Albanian players with a plastic chair, while others started to brawl with riot police in the stands.
The Albanian players left the pitch soon after under a hail of missiles.
Security measures have since been increased around the Serbian Embassy in Tirana.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is scheduled to visit Belgrade October 22, the first visit by an Albanian prime minister since 1946.Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Ekim 2014, 14:31