Thursday, July 7, 2022

Associated Press interview: UEFA wants politics out of Albanian football

TIRANA, Albania ( Associated Press) — UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said Thursday his concerns about political interference in Albanian football elections were downplayed after a meeting with the country’s prime minister.

After meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama and officials of the Albanian Football Federation, or FSHF, Ceferin also committed to organize the inaugural Europa Conference League final in Tirana.

In January, an explosion occurred in the house of the federation’s president, Armand Duca, without any injuries. Duca is up for re-election for a sixth four-year term next month, but said he had also received life-threatening text messages asking him to resign. The election has also given rise to conflict between Duka and Tirana City Hall, which has accused Duka of corruption.

UEFA warned of “political interference in the operation of the Albanian federation” and questioned whether it would be safe to stage the Europa Conference League final in Albania. But Ceferin said he was satisfied with the assurances he had received from Rama.

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“I agree with the prime minister that there will be no government interference, the football will decide about football and that’s what we want,” Ceferin told the Associated Press. We want fair elections. We do not want any interference from any side.”

However, he added that the European governing body will still send observers to ensure that the elections take place without being influenced by outsiders.

“Everything should be transparent and with good governance,” he said.

Ceferin said the final of the Europa Conference League, the third-tier competition that made its debut this season, will be held in Tirana on May 25.

“The final here is safe and we are looking forward as it is the first Europa Conference League final in history,” he said.

After the conversation, Rama also struck in an excited tone.

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“Today’s meeting with the UEFA President could not have been better for our joint goal of holding the first European Final in Tirana and the conduct of a credible process for all parties involved in the new election of the FSHF,” Rama tweeted.

Ceferin opposed FIFA’s plans for a biennial World Cup, saying the proposal was “nonsense”.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has insisted that holding the World Cup every two years instead of every four years would allow more countries to qualify and generate more interest and revenue.

“The idea is against football, against men’s and women’s football. It’s against the Olympic Games,” Ceferin said. “So I don’t think it can ever happen.”

FIFA’s plans have also been opposed by the Football Confederation of South America, which has said there is “no chance” that such a resolution will be passed.


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