Soccer games broke out in No Man’s Land during World War I’s Christmas Truce. A war nearly broke out during yesterday’s soccer game between Albania and Serbia in Belgrade.
A drone flying a “Greater Albania” flag hovered over the pitch in the Albania-Serbia match. The standard refers to Kosovo, the province the two nations fought over in the late 1990s, as part of Albania–an affront to Serbian nationalism. When Serbian player Stefan Mitrovic ripped the flag from the unmanned aircraft, chaos ensued.
Some fans, almost exclusively Serbian because of the ban on Albanians attending, stormed the field at Partizan Stadium. Fights broke out. Projectiles of a less technologically-savvy sort than the drone flew from the bleachers onto the field. The Albanian national team fled the field. After 41 minutes of play, referees suspended the 0-0 stalemate.
As though the drone invasion weren’t surreal enough, in a bizarre postscript Serbian police arrested Olsi Rama, brother of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, for piloting the unmanned aircraft via remote control from the stadium stands. The Serbians sent the alleged drone controller home.
Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. The United States and Albania recognizes its sovereignty. Serbia doesn’t.