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Albania welcomed home as heroes after abandoned Euro 2016 qualifier in Serbia

  • Albania's Bekim Balaj, left, and Serbia's Nenad Tomovic, fight over a flag banner that was suspended by a drone during the Euro 2016 Group I qualifying match between Serbia and Albania at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The 2016 European Championship qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned on Tuesday after skirmishes broke out on the pitch involving players and fans over an Albanian flag that was flown above the stadium by a drone. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

    Albania's Bekim Balaj, left, and Serbia's Nenad Tomovic, fight over a flag banner that was suspended by a drone during the Euro 2016 Group I qualifying match between Serbia and Albania at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The 2016 European Championship qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned on Tuesday after skirmishes broke out on the pitch involving players and fans over an Albanian flag that was flown above the stadium by a drone. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)  (The Associated Press)

  • Serbian soccer fans react during the Euro 2016 Group I qualifying match between Serbia and Albania, at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The 2016 European Championship qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned on Tuesday after skirmishes broke out on the pitch involving players and fans over an Albanian flag that was flown above the stadium by a drone. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Serbian soccer fans react during the Euro 2016 Group I qualifying match between Serbia and Albania, at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The 2016 European Championship qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned on Tuesday after skirmishes broke out on the pitch involving players and fans over an Albanian flag that was flown above the stadium by a drone. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

  • Serbian riot police officers clash with soccer fans during the Euro 2016 Group I qualifying match between Serbia and Albania, at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The match was suspended. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Serbian riot police officers clash with soccer fans during the Euro 2016 Group I qualifying match between Serbia and Albania, at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The match was suspended. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

Albania has returned home to a heroes' welcome from a European Championship qualifier in Serbia that was abandoned after an Albanian nationalist banner was flown over the stadium, sparking violence between players and fans.

Up to 3,000 flag-waving supporters gathered outside Tirana's airport early Wednesday.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is abroad, praised players on his Twitter page for "the pride and joy they gave us."

The referee halted the scoreless Group I match in the 41st minute when a Serbian player grabbed the banner — that carried a map of Albania enlarged to include chunks of all its neighbors — and Albanian players tried to protect it.

Rama is due to visit Belgrade next week, the first by an Albanian prime minister in 68 years.