Serbia v Albania match abandoned after drone invades pitch

15 Oct 2014

A new age of football hooliganism has dawned as the Serbia v Albania Euro 2016 qualifying match was abandoned after a brawl broke out because a drone flew over the pitch bearing a Greater Albania flag.

The incident recalled the ugly events of the post-Yugoslavia breakdown of the Nineties, occurred during Albania’s first visit to Belgrade since 1967.

Kosovo, which has a largely Albanian ethnic population, declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

The football game, which had been goalless up to the point the brawl began, descended into chaos when a drone flew over the pitch to lower a flag bearing the insignia of Greater Albania at the 40th minute.

The device fell from the sky and landed on the Serbian half of the pitch.

Serbian player Stefan Mitrovic picked up the machine, only to be accosted by Albanian players Andy Lila an Taulant Xhaka, sparking a pitch invasion by officials and substitutes from both sides.

Striker Bekim Balaj, who had been carrying the flag towards the touchline, was hit by a bystander with a plastic chair.

A violent melee broke out and both teams headed for the tunnel amid a shower of debris being hurled from the crowd.

Forty minutes later the match was abandoned.

A new era in football hooliganism

History has always shown that time is a poor healer and football matches are often emotional and heady affairs if events are within living memory.

The question now is whether pitch invasions by drones are a new danger for all sporting and entertainment events.

The machines, which can carry GoPro cameras to record in HD, have their uses and are beginning to be deployed at music concerts to gather footage and add to the experience.

However, as seen last night, they can also be used to provoke emotions and event officials may need to look at alternative technologies, such as wireless no-fly zones and interceptor drones.

Drone image at top via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years