Watch: Serbia-Albania Soccer Match Descends Into Mass Brawl After Drone Stunt

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Fans and players of Serbia and Albania clash during their Euro 2016 Group I qualifying soccer match at the FK Partizan stadium in Belgrade October 14, 2014. Marko Djurica/Reuters

A 2016 European Championship Qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned in the first half last night after players from both teams and home fans clashed in Belgrade. The chaos was prompted by the bizarre appearance of a drone carrying a controversial Albanian flag.

Serbia Captain Branislav Ivanovic told press after the match: “We can only regret that football took a back seat but it is difficult to draw any conclusions or make any comments now.”

"What happened is something we can't comprehend at the moment," he said. "On behalf of my team, all I can say is that we wanted to carry on and that we shielded the Albanian players every step of the way to the tunnel.”

Serbian press later reported that the brother of the Albanian prime minister had been arrested for flying the drone from the VIP section of the stadium.

Orfi Rama, younger brother of Albanian leader Edi Rama, later refuted the claims, telling an Albanian TV channel that he had not been arrested or that he had anything to do with the incident.

Video footage of the incident shows a remote control drone hovering over the Partizan stadium in the first half of the match, until Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic jumped to pull it down the flag, causing Albanian players Taulant Xhaka and Bekim Balaj to take instant offense and rush toward him in a bid to take the flag from him.

In a matter of seconds masked Serbian fans rushed the pitch, assaulting Albanian players. UEFA had not permitted Albanian fans to travel to Belgrade amid safety concerns.

It emerged the flag bore a controversial map and nationalist symbols referring to the area referred to as ‘Greater Albania’ -  a state extending into the territories of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece.

On the flag was the inscription “autochthonous” (indigenous), in reference to the idea that territories on the Balkans in Kosovo, Macedonia, as well as Serbia belong to an ethnic Albanian nation.

The flag also bore the faces of Albania’s national hero and first head of state - Ismail Qemal, as well as Kosovar nationalist revolutionary Isa Boletini.

Albanian radio station Alsat referred to the flag as “sacred” which “should not be touched by anyone, and especially not a Serb”, explaining that the Albanian players were “responding to protect the flag".

Macedonia’s Channel 5, on the other hand, condemned the flag, calling it a “provocation of the hosts”.

The match was abandoned in the 41st minute, with Albanian players having to rush down the exit tunnel as home fans pelted them with chairs and debris from the stands.

Taulent Xhaka was the last Albanian player to remain on the pitch, cutting a angry figure as Serbia’s Alexander Kolarov attempted to escort him off the pitch.

RTR4A77O A flag depicting so-called Greater Albania, an area covering all parts of the Balkans where ethnic Albanians live, is flown over the pitch during their Euro 2016 Group I qualifying soccer match against Albania at the FK Partizan stadium in Belgrade October 14, 2014. Marko Djurica/Reuters

This was the first time the two Balkan countries have played each other since 1967, having suffered a bloody political fallout after the break-up of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war between ethnic Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo.

Ivanovic added that it was the Albanian team’s decision to end the match, however UEFA has not yet reached a decision on whether the tie will be replayed or whether the match in Belgrade will be considered a forfeit on either side’s behalf. The score was 0 - 0 when play was interrupted.

The two sides are due to play a return leg in Albania on 8 October 2015.

Correction: This article referred to Albania as a "former Yugoslav republic". This has now been amended.

Correction: This article referred to the drone being flown in the "opening minutes" of the match. This has now been changed to the "first half" of the match.