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Oct 15, 2014 7:29 AM

UEFA to investigate Serbia-Albania violence

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) UEFA will open disciplinary cases on Wednesday against the Serbian and Albanian football associations over the fighting between players and fans that led to their European Championship qualifier in Belgrade being abandoned.

The violence broke out after a drone dangling an Albanian banner circled over the field during the first half of Tuesday night's game. A Serbian player grabbed the banner as Albanian players tried to protect it, and the game was called off before halftime amid the chaos.

The case was quickly assessed by UEFA's disciplinary unit on Wednesday after receiving reports from the delegate, match officials and security.

"We will open disciplinary cases against both national associations" on Wednesday, UEFA spokesman Pedro Pinto told The Associated Press.

The Serbians and Albanians will have until next Wednesday to respond to the charges, with a decision on punishments set to be issued the following day. Serbia could have to play its next Euro 2016 qualifier at home on Nov. 14 against Denmark without any fans.

UEFA President Michel Platini said he was saddened by the violence.

"Football is supposed to bring people together and our game should not be mixed with politics of any kind," Platini said. "The scenes in Belgrade last night were inexcusable."

There was also condemnation from FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who wrote on Twitter: "Football should never be used for political messages. I strongly condemn what happened in Belgrade."

Albanian fans had been warned against attending the game between the two Balkan rival nations that have had turbulent relations mainly over the former ethnic Albanian-dominated Serbian province of Kosovo that declared independence in 2008.

But neither Serbia nor Albania asked to be separated in qualifying, said Pinto, who also highlighted the lack of ongoing military conflict between the nations.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have a territorial dispute, have been kept apart by UEFA in draws since their scheduled Euro 2008 qualifiers were cancelled, and Spain refuses to play new UEFA member Gibraltar because of a sovereignty dispute with the British territory.


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