England game with Albania should go ahead after security issue resolved

PA Sport Staff
·2-min read

England’s World Cup qualifier against Albania in Tirana on Sunday should go ahead after a security issue was resolved.

The Albanian Football Association (AFA) said on Thursday it had been informed that local police could not guarantee the safety of the teams.

State police later issued a statement saying they had taken the relevant precautions for the match.

“The state police assures the citizens that it has taken all measures to guarantee order and security for the international football match between Albania and England,” read the statement.

The AFA had feared it would be forced to cancel the match, a move it described as having “catastrophic” consequences for the nation’s image.

A spokesperson for the FA had said: “We will continue to liaise with the relevant authorities.”

The issue arose after the AFA requested a restricted number of fans vaccinated against Covid-19 be permitted to attend the game.

This was rejected by government and the Group I match at the Air Albania Stadium is to be played behind closed doors.

Yet with no other lockdown measures currently in place in Albania, the area around the stadium could be busy.

The original AFA statement read: “Today in the Albanian Football Federation a letter arrived from the local police directorate of Tirana which states that the structures of the local police directorate of Tirana do not guarantee the taking of measures before, during and after the Albania-England match on March 28.

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“Faced with the situation where the state authorities did not react after the request of the Albanian Football Federation for the release of spaces on the perimeter of the national stadium, we request urgent response of these structures.

“The cancellation of the Albania-England match scheduled to be played at Air Albania Stadium would have catastrophic consequences for the image of our country, the national team and in general for Albanian football.”

Speaking after England’s 5-0 win over San Marino on Thursday night, manager Gareth Southgate said he had no fears that the fixture would be called off.

“In terms of Albania, I didn’t think for one minute it would be in doubt,” he said.

“We’re sort of flooded by stories like that all the time about various issues and it’s very rare that those things actually come to fruition.

“I’m told that there is no doubt about the game.”