Connect with us


Serbia-Albania rivalry hangs over Europa League Belgrade clash

Tirana (AFP) – It may not be one of Thursday’s Europa League glamour ties but Skenderbeu’s visit to Partizan is nonetheless steeped in the history of the bitter rivalry between Albania and Serbia.

Three years ago Partizan’s stadium in Belgrade was the stage for a Euro 2016 qualifier between the fractious neighbours that descended into chaos and violent clashes, forcing its abandonment.

Serbian fans hurled smoke bombs and invaded the pitch to attack Albanian players after a drone carrying a nationalist flag bearing a map of “Greater Albania” — including Serbia within its boundaries — flew over the stadium.

The incident escalated into a diplomatic row and highlighted the fragile ties between the two Balkan nations.

Serbia is still seeking the extradition from Croatia of the Albanian Ismail Morina who flew the drone.

Ties between Belgrade and Tirana have traditionally been frosty, especially since Kosovo, a former Serbian province populated by mostly ethnic Albanians, unilaterally declared independence in 2008.

Belgrade still does not recognise the move.

It is against this backdrop that Skenderbeu, named in honour of the Albanian national hero and 15th Century military commander Skanderbeg, arrive in the Serbian capital.

The first leg between the teams at Elbasan in Albania passed off without incident, or for that matter a goal.

Skenderbeu are captained by Albanian international Orges Shehi, who was on the pitch for that October 2014 firefight.

While no-one is anticipating a repeat of the violence from that meeting, Partizan all the same have promised “tight security measures” for Thursday’s game.

“Neither team nor supporters and certainly not the politicians are interested in seeing a repeat of those sort of incidents,” commented Albanian journalist Endi Tufa.

Partizan fans with long memories are still smarting at being knocked out of the then UEFA Cup by another Albanian side, Flamurtari, in 1987.

That shock defeat provided fans of Partizan’s Belgrade rivals Red Star with plenty of ammunition to taunt their neighbours.

Fadil Vokri was a striker for Partizan at that time.

Now president of the Kosovo Football Federation the 57-year-old recalled Sokol Kushta’s all important goal for Flamurtari in the second leg that knocked Partizan out.

“Kushta’s goal was one that only comes along once in a century, we were terribly disappointed,” he recalled.

Looking ahead to Thursday’s game the Partizan legend steered clear of politics, saying: “Against Skenderbeu, Partizan are slight favourites.”

200+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
  • Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
  • Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
  • Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
  • Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
  • Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
  • Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
  • Price: $4.99/mo
  • Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in AFP

Translate »