Football

Man Who Flew Drone into Serbia v Albania Match Sparking Mass Riots is a National Hero

Man Who Flew Drone into Serbia v Albania Match Sparking Mass Riots is a National Hero

If you’re Albanian then you will no doubt have heard of Ismail Morina.

Born in Albania, the 33-year-old crane operator shot to fame last year when he flew a drone carrying the nationalist flag bearing the double-headed black Albanian eagle into his country’s Euro 2016 qualifying match away at Serbia.

That flag was quickly torn down by a Serbian player and sparked riots, with players and officials fighting before the Albanian players were forced to leave the pitch as they were pelted with objects thrown from the angry crowd.

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The game wasn’t restarted and Albania were eventually awarded a 3-0 victory by the Court of Arbitration for Sport despite Serbia initially getting the points.

As a result of the whole sorry mess of the game, relations between the countries have worsened – at least in a football sense.

In case you’re unaware, Serbia and Albania aren’t at war, but there are tensions between the countries for a number of reasons, most recently because of Serbia’s unwillingness to recognise Kosovo as an independent state.

Another result of the game is Morina shooting to national hero status.

According to a piece published by James Montague in the New York Times today, Morina – who lived in Italy and travelled to Serbia to carry out the drone flight at the time – is loved by the Albanian people for his actions.

Montague wrote:

In Albania, the drone has made Ismail Morina a national hero. On any given day, dozens of people – students, war veterans, even the police – stop him to pose for pictures.

His actions are still discussed on Albanian television regularly, although not always favorably. “One analyst on TV said I was both from ISIS, because the flag was black, and that I was paid by the Serbian secret service!” he said.

It’s an incredible story, and one which comes to the forefront of international football again as Albania prepare to welcome Serbia to Elbasan for their second Euro 2016 qualifier tomorrow night.

No Serbian fans are allowed in the stadium – apart from 70 students – with authorities keen to make sure the game passes with no controversy.

In a further development to the story, Morina appears to have been arrested ahead of tomorrow night’s game – after being found possessing a gun without permit.

According to Montague:

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