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After last night’s extraordinary scenes in Belgrade, where the Serbia-Albania match was called off when a drone flew a pro-Albanian flag over the pitch, we look at sport’s other great incendiary political gestures, from Souness to Gazza.


• Souness plants flag on enemy territory

Graeme Souness was never one to back down from conflict and he certainly found it while managing Galatasaray in 1996. Facing fierce Istanbul rivals Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Cup final, Galatasaray, who had won the home leg 1-0 at home, secured the cup with a 1-1 draw in Fenerbahçe’s Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.

Souness, perhaps emboldened by the victory, decided to celebrate by taking a gigantic Galatasaray flag and planting it in the middle of Fenerbahçe’s pitch. The incident sparked a predictably violent response from the home fans who rained objects down on the pitch, while medal presentations had to be temporarily halted after the Turkish President was hit by a bottle


Press reaction was equally furious. Souness was condemned for his insulting gesture and considered responsible for the Fenerbahçe supporters’ riotous behaviour.

Funnily enough, Souness didn’t have his contract renewed at the end of that season, having lost out on the Turkish title . . . to Fenerbahçe.

Souness though was unrepentant. “One day I would’ve got round to planting a flag at Celtic Park if I’d stayed on as manager of Rangers,” he said later.


• Gascoigne plays the pipes:flute::drum:

Paul Gascoigne could hardly be considered a political animal but he managed to stir up some serious controversy after he played a mock flute during an Old Firm match at Celtic Park while warming up as a second-half substitute. The gesture, which is symbolic of the flute-playing of Orange Order marchers, is considered a Loyalist symbol insulting to Catholics.


Gascoigne first made the mime after scoring his first goal for Rangers in 1995 with the suggestion he had been egged on by team-mates and knew nothing of its significance.

But this time the gesture infuriated Celtic fans who had been taunting him and Gascoigne was fined £20,000 by Rangers after the incident. He also received death threats and left Rangers at the end of that season.


• Baghdatis sparks furore

Marcos Baghdatis, the Cypriot tennis player, found himself at the centre of a storm at the at the 2008 Australian Open when a video posted on YouTube almost a year earlier showed him holding a flare chanting slogans such as “Turks out of Cyprus” at a barbecue hosted by his Greek Australian fan club.


The local Turkish Cypriot community claimed it was a “racist attack” and a “straightforward provocation of our community”, and called for him to expelled from the tournament.


However, he was allowed to play on with Baghdatis claiming he was not calling for Turkish Cypriots to leave Cyprus, but rather an end to Turkey’s military occupation since 1974.


• Football goes to war

Perhaps the only time that a sporting event has resulted in conflict, the “Football War” between El Salvador and Honduras was sparked by best-of-three World Cup qualifiers in 1969.


Honduras, who won the first match 1-0, lost the second 3-0 in San Salvador after Honduran players endured a sleepless night before the game, with rotten eggs and dead rats allegedly thrown through the broken windows of their hotel. Honduran fans were also attacked at the game


By the time of the third match, won 3-2 by El Salvador after extra-time on June 27, tension had ratcheted up so much that Honduras broke off diplomatic relations

By July 14, El Salvador had invaded Honduras. When the conflict ended on July 20, between 1,000 and 2,000 people had been killed and 100,000 had lost their homes. It took 11 years to negotiate a peace treaty.


Ironically El Salvador hardly shined in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico either. They lost all three of their group games without scoring.


• Black power salutes

In perhaps the most famous political protest made in a sporting arena, Tommie Smith and John Carlos both raised a black-gloved fist during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City in a silent demonstration against racial discrimination. The Afro-American pair had finished first and third in the 200 metres with Smith triumphing in a world-record time of 19.83 seconds.


Smith and Carlos also wore human-rights badges on their jackets along with Peter Norman, the Australian silver medal-winner.

“If I win I am American, not a black American,” Smith said later. “But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”


The response from the IOC was swift, banning both American athletes from the Games and dubbing their actions as “an act of racial protest.” The pair were largely ostracised on their return to the US and Norman was also censured by Australian athletics for his involvement.


But their brave action is now regarded as one of the most eloquent statements ever made in the fight for racial equality.

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