TIRANA – The bus transporting Serbia’s national soccer team was stoned in Tirana on Wednesday, Vice President of the Serbian Soccer Association Savo Milosevic confirmed for Tanjug.
A bus carrying Serbia’s national soccer squad was hit by stones within hours of the team arriving in Albania October 7 for a Euro 2016 qualifier, prompting a diplomatic protest from Serbia.
Before the stoning incident, Albania had stepped up security for the politically-charged match, determined to prevent a repeat of the fan and player violence that broke out a year ago at a previous match in Belgrade after a drone carrying a nationalist flag bearing a map of “Greater Albania” flew over the stadium.
One window on the bus transporting the Serbian soccer team was broken and all players were shocked by the hooligan attack, but nobody was injured in the incident, Milosevic said.
Serbian federation spokesman Aleksandar Boskovic called it a “small incident,” but Serbia’s foreign ministry said it had prepared a protest note. Video broadcast on Serbian media showed streets lined with people, and at least two stones striking the bus and cracking a window.
No one was hurt, but Serbia said the incident raised doubts over security for the game on October 8 in the central Albanian town of Elbasan.
Serbia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Albania’s ambassador, Ilir Bocka, but that he had refused to receive Serbia’s protest note. There was no immediate word from the Albanian embassy.
“This game seems to have exceeded a simple football match,” Serbian captain Branislav Ivanovic said after the incident.
Albania fielded nearly 2,000 policemen to ensure security at this week’s match.
Authorities said they were working to find those responsible for stoning the team bus, while they banned traffic around the hotels where the Serbia team was staying and assigned elite units to guard the team members.
Police said they will carefully screen fans to weed out troublemakers before they enter the stadium, while tickets for the event carry a message calling for “fair play and respect of the opponents, the rules and the result of the match.”
“This is an opportunity to show our values in supporting the national team and hosting the guest team,” said Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri.
Tomislav Karadzic, the president of Serbia’s soccer federation, commended the Albanian police for the security measures.
But he said: “Several rocks were hurled from the crowd towards the bus. A sizeable one landed in the vicinity of the second or third row of seats, where our players were sitting.
“If this level of security remains unchanged, there will be problems. But they [Albanian police] have guaranteed that this will not happen again. We are waiting to see what happens next.”
The Serbian team safely arrived in the hotel under police escort.