||ESPNsoccernet: Euro 2008
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Albanian chief accused of 'selling' Euro qualifiers
TIRANA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Albania's soccer team has been
branded a 'mafia group' by Prime Minister Sali Berisha while the
country's culture minister accused the President of the National
Soccer Federation of 'selling' two Euro 2008 qualifiers.
In a letter addressed to UEFA last month and made public
earlier this week, Culture Minister Ylli Pango called upon the
sport's governing body in Europe to investigate 'clear
suspicions that both matches might have been sold by the
President of our National Soccer Federation'.
'This is clear evidence that he is using our national soccer
team's matches for his own interests, insulting the feelings of
its fans and supporters,' Pango wrote.
'Therefore, I kindly invite UEFA to investigate both
matches,' he added.
Albania lost 4-2 at home to Belarus and 6-1 away to Romania
in the last two Euro 2008 qualifiers. Coach Otto Baric resigned
after the unsuccessful campaign.
Pango's letter to Gianni Infantino, UEFA's Director of Legal
Service and Club Licensing, was released after Prime Minister
Sali Berisha said the national team had brought shame on
'This is mafia group that tramples upon the flag,' Berisha
said on local television.
'Let the nation be not represented for a time rather than be
represented by a mafia that sells their shirts.'
The players defended their reputation and asked Berisha to
stop reaching 'hasty' conclusions, threatening to sue him if the
investigation proved they were not to blame.
The leftist opposition and the soccer federation said they
hoped the attack was not political after the federation resisted
government pressure to become fully audited two years ago.
Armando Duka, the soccer federation head, is the brother of
an agriculture minister in the Socialist government that Berisha
ousted in June 2005.
Arben Bici, the soccer federation's secretary, said they
welcomed the investigation, and asked the government to supply
any evidence of match-fixing.
UEFA confirmed to Reuters the letter had been received but
would not comment on the matter further.