Officials from European soccer’s governing body met Thursday to mull over what to do about last week’s disastrous Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania. On Friday, UEFA made its decision public. As expected, the fines for both sides were steep, as each national team will have to pay 100,000 Euros ($127,000); other consequences, however, were not as predictable.
UEFA awarded Serbia a 3-0 walkover win, with officials deciding that Albania had forfeited the match by refusing to play out the remainder of the game after a drone carrying a pro-Albanian banner flew through the stadium and sparked fights on the field.
The match had been temporarily suspended when the drone flew into the stadium, and after the melee broke up, the teams were given the option to return to play out the rest of the game in an empty stadium. Albania refused, however, citing an “aggressive” atmosphere underscored by nationalistic chants that were derogatory and threatening to Albanian players. The side also accused Serbia of physically harming their players.
“I am disillusioned because we were claiming a legal verdict from UEFA,” Albanian football federation president Armand Duka told Albanian television (via Sky Sports). “I do not understand what precedent this may set when a squad physically beats the opposing players on the pitch. I do not know if there is a greater scandal than this.”
While the record books now will show Serbia winning 3-0, even though the match ended at 0-0 in the 41st minute, Serbia will not benefit from the victory: Instead, for their antics last Tuesday, UEFA deducted deducted three points — the full amount awarded for a win — from Serbia’s standings-point total, which keeps it at just one point and well below the four points currently held by both Albania and Denmark in Group I. Additionally, UEFA ordered Serbia to play its next two home matches in an empty stadium.
The decisions are all subject to appeal, UEFA stated, and according to Albanian lawyer Chimi Shkohoxha, who attended the match as part of the official Albanian delegation, Albania is already readying theirs.
“This is a travesty,” Shkohoxha told The Guardian. “It’s a cop out. We are totally committed to banishing racism from football, and this judgment appears to fly in the face of that aim. This is not about the point — it’s about fighting racism.”
It is unclear if Serbia will appeal the ruling, although it, too, has expressed their discontent with UEFA’s decision.
“I am not happy with the verdict. The Serbian Football Association will issue an official reaction,” Serbian FA vice president Goran Milanovic told Belgrade’s Beta news agency (via Globe and Mail).