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Thousands petition UEFA against Skenderbeu’s disciplinary proceedings

Thousands petition UEFA against Skenderbeu’s disciplinary proceedings

TIRANA, Feb. 22 – Thousands of fans packed Korça’s main boulevard this week in a peaceful march to protest and petition against UEFA disciplinary proceedings that could see Skenderbeu banned for up to ten years from European competition on match-fixing

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UEFA concerned over inspectors’ death threats in Skenderbeu investigation

UEFA concerned over inspectors’ death threats in Skenderbeu investigation

European football’s governing body says its disciplinary inspectors involved in Skenderbeu’s investigation have received anonymous death threats, presumably intended to intimidate them and stop them carrying out their work. “These threats will not succeed and the police have also been

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Albania’s sole Europa League contenders face 10-year ban threat over match-fixing

Albania’s sole Europa League contenders face 10-year ban threat over match-fixing

TIRANA, Feb. 16 – Albania’s most successful club of the past decade, Skenderbeu, risk facing a ten-year ban from European competition as part of an ongoing investigation into match-fixing allegations by European football’s governing body, UEFA. The new probe comes

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Mosques to be reconstructed under Ministry of Culture initiative

Mosques to be reconstructed under Ministry of Culture initiative

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – Minister of Culture Mirela Kumbaro announced this week that five Islamic faith monuments throughout Albania will be restored. The decision comes under a cooperation agreement signed between the ministry of culture and the Muslim Community of

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Albania’s air quality data unreliable, state auditors say

Albania’s air quality data unreliable, state auditors say

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – Albania’s few operational air quality monitoring stations lack accreditation and the data they produce are unreliable, an audit carried out by the country’s Supreme State Audit has found. “Currently, the air quality results in Albania are

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Albania civil society activists unhappy with court decision over controversial ‘Veliera’ project

Albania civil society activists unhappy with court decision over controversial ‘Veliera’ project

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – A court decision to allow the resumption of works at a controversial project in Durres, Albania’s second largest city, has left unhappy civil society activists lobbying for its cancellation due to important archeological finds. The reaction

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Albanian-Italian wins Sanremo festival, to represent Italy in Eurovision Song Contest

Albanian-Italian wins Sanremo festival, to represent Italy in Eurovision Song Contest

TIRANA, Feb. 12 – Ermal Meta, who made history last year as the first Albanian-born artist to finish third in Italy’s prestigious Sanremo music festival, won this year the festival’s grand prize with Fabrizio Moro and will be representing Italy

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Albanian sculptor’s art lives on in Albanian Embassy in Canada

Albanian sculptor’s art lives on in Albanian Embassy in Canada

TIRANA, Feb. 12 – A small collection of artworks by Albanian sculptor Hytbi Tarelli, who lived and passed away in Toronto, Canada, two years ago, have been displayed in the Albanian Embassy in Canada with the help of the artist’s

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AIIS ranks higher in 2017 global think tank index among world’s best

AIIS ranks higher in 2017 global think tank index among world’s best

TIRANA, Feb. 8 – The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) climbed up the 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report ranking from 23rd to 22nd place among top think tanks in Central and Eastern Europe. The report, launched

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Incumbent president re-elected for fifth consecutive term as head of Albania’s football

Incumbent president re-elected for fifth consecutive term as head of Albania’s football

TIRANA, Feb. 7 – Armand Duka has been reelected as the president of Albania’s football association, getting a fifth consecutive four-year term at the helm of the country’s most important sports organization. In a voting session held on Wednesday at

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_135918" align="alignright" width="300"]skenderbeu 2 "Don't kill our dream," "We live football, We love Skenderbeu," "Our city is not a threat, our city wants justice," Skenderbeu, our dream" were some of the slogans fans carried during the march in Korça, the southeastern Albanian city known as the “the little Paris of Albania.” Photo: KF Skenderbeu[/caption]

TIRANA, Feb. 22 – Thousands of fans packed Korça’s main boulevard this week in a peaceful march to protest and petition against UEFA disciplinary proceedings that could see Skenderbeu banned for up to ten years from European competition on match-fixing allegations.

"Don't kill our dream," "We live football, We love Skenderbeu," "Our city is not a threat, our city wants justice,"   Skenderbeu, our dream" were some of the slogans fans carried during the march in Korça, the southeastern Albanian city known as the “the little Paris of Albania,” and where football has been one of the main city entertainment in the past decade following Skenderbeu’s domination of the national championship and its two historic appearances at the Europa League group stage.

In a petition to European football's governing body, UEFA, Skenderbeu fans say punishing their club means punishing a whole city and a success story in Albanian football in the past few years.

"In the past eight years, Skenderbeu has been the city's happiness. Football is more than a game for Korça, it's believing. In Korça, everybody has believed and believes in fair play from this team which has won six national championships and appeared twice at the Europa League,” reads the petition.

"Skenderbeu was founded in 1909 but managed to join the European family only in 2015, making a dream come true for us," the petition says referring to Skenderbeu's debut Europa League group stage appearance, the first by an Albanian club.

Petitioners say punishing Skenderbeu, a club named after Albania's national hero Skanderbeg whose 550th death anniversary this year, Albania is marking as the Pan-national Skanderbeg Year, would also be a severe blow to Skanderbeg's figure.

“Help us progress in this European path! Don't punish us!,” concludes the petition.

Albania’s most successful club of the past decade, Skenderbeu, risk facing a ten-year ban from European competition as part of an ongoing investigation into match-fixing allegations by European football’s governing body, UEFA.

The new probe comes after Skenderbeu were already handed a one-year ban from European competition for the 2016-2017 campaign on match-fixing allegations.

Skenderbeu have denied any match-fixing allegations, saying the probe into the club was initiated by “companies who want to justify the millions they get from UEFA” and the “anti-Skenderbeu clan in Albania,” implying Brussels-based Federbet gaming anti-corruption organization and opponents in the Albanian Superliga.
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                    [post_content] => European football’s governing body says its disciplinary inspectors involved in Skenderbeu’s investigation have received anonymous death threats, presumably intended to intimidate them and stop them carrying out their work.

"These threats will not succeed and the police have also been informed. UEFA remains fully committed to the fight against match-fixing and all UEFA staff working on these crucial matters can count on the full support of the organization," UEFA said in a statement.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin also confirmed support to inspectors.

"We will never allow UEFA staff working on these matters, or any other matters, to be subject to threats or intimidation from any third parties. They have the full backing of the organization, including 100 percent personal support from me," Ceferin said.

The European football's governing body says additional information obtained via UEFA's Betting Fraud Detection System “now suggests a far greater pattern of involvement by KF Skënderbeu in match-fixing.”

Reacting to UEFA’s statement, Ardjan Takaj, Skenderbeu's football club president, denied any allegations linking the club to the inspectors' death threats saying the "history of our club and the nature of the city we represent is our biggest guarantee."

"We encourage law enforcement agencies to bring the real perpetrators of this incident before justice," said Takaj, the owner of a 75 percent majority stake in Skenderbeu.

The Skenderbeu president says the probe into Skenderbeu was initiated by “companies who want to justify the millions they get from UEFA" and the “anti-Skenderbeu clan in Albania,” implying Brussels-based Federbet gaming anti-corruption organization and opponents in the Albanian Superliga.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 – Albania’s most successful club of the past decade, Skenderbeu, risk facing a ten-year ban from European competition as part of an ongoing investigation into match-fixing allegations by European football’s governing body, UEFA.

The new probe comes after Skenderbeu were already handed a one-year ban from European competition for the 2016-2017 campaign on match-fixing allegations.

UEFA's ethics and disciplinary inspectors are now seeking a ten-year ban from the Champions League and Europa League campaigns for Skenderbeu as well a €1 million fine, in what would be one of the harshest punishments in European history.

Back in 2010, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a UEFA eight-year Europe-wide ban on Macedonian club FC Pobeda for match-fixing over a single 2004 Champions League tie with an Armenian club.

Emilio Garcia, the head of the UEFA disciplinary and integrity unit, had earlier warned the one-year ban for Skenderbeu was only a 'preliminary ban and that the UEFA disciplinary bodies were considering real disciplinary measures."

“The numbers don’t lie and the betting patterns don’t lie,” the UEFA lawyer had warned.

UEFA banned Skenderbeu over match fixing allegations in two Champions League qualifiers and two Europa League group-stage games in 2015. The European football’s governing body suspects Skenderbeu who have dominated Albanian football in the past six years could have also been involved in fixing around 50 domestic matches since 2011.

“The case affirms the reliability of UEFA’s betting fraud detection system in identifying abnormal betting patterns on matches played by the Albanian club at European and domestic levels,” UEFA said in mid-2016 after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld its one-year ban.

Reacting to the new UEFA probe, Skenderbeu said the new proceedings were an appeal by UEFA inspectors to a decision made two years ago on Skenderbeu and not a new case against the club.

"This is an ongoing disciplinary case on which no hearing session has yet been set. Skenderbeu have already been aware of these charges by the disciplinary inspectors and we are confident the case will successfully conclude,” the club said in a statement.

Back in mid-2017, Albania's football association also stripped Skenderbeu of their 2015-2016 Superliga title over UEFA’s match fixing allegations, cutting their six straight titles to five.

Skenderbeu have appealed the decision with the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Korça-based club are the only Albanian club to have made it to the UEFA Europa League group stage, with two appearances in the past three years.

Skenderbeu are favourites to win this year's domestic Superliga title with a comfortable 11-point lead over second placed Flamurtari.
                    [post_title] => Albania’s sole Europa League contenders face 10-year ban threat over match-fixing
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 15 - Minister of Culture Mirela Kumbaro announced this week that five Islamic faith monuments throughout Albania will be restored. 

The decision comes under a cooperation agreement signed between the ministry of culture and the Muslim Community of Albania, head of which is Skёnder Bruçaj.

Kumbaro said that most of the monuments selected have not had a proper restoration in the last years, and are in need of a thorough one. 

“The preparation and approval phase of the project is already finished, and we will soon start construction in these sites,” Kumbaro said.

She added that in addition to the five selected monuments, attention will also be given to the Plumbi Mosque of Shkodra, which is also in need of thorough restoration. 

The Plumbi Mosque has been flooded several times through the years. Kumbaro said that in order to save the monument once and for all, a dam will be built at its proximity.

Three of the mosques that will be restored are in Berat, while the other two are located in Tirana and Berat respectively. The restoration process will be funded by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TCCA). 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 15 – Albania’s few operational air quality monitoring stations lack accreditation and the data they produce are unreliable, an audit carried out by the country’s Supreme State Audit has found.

“Currently, the air quality results in Albania are not real as they are not all-inclusive. There are only seven air quality monitoring stations in the whole of Albania which monitor uninterruptedly, but two of them have been out of work for a two-year period. All these stations have not been accredited, some of them are uncalibrated, something which is a clear indicator of the low level of reliability the data represents,” says the Supreme State Audit.

“The values published on Tirana as well as other Albanian cities by the National Environment Agency's mobile monitoring station are not representative as average values. The number of fixed air quality monitoring stations is also not sufficient to produce representative and reliable data on the respective cities,” adds the report.

Air pollution figures in Albania remain among the highest in Europe.

Tirana tops Albania’s air pollution city list, exceeding EU limits by up to two times, but the surprise second most polluted city is Korça, the biggest city in southeast Albania whose pollution is mainly seasonal due to massive burning of firewood for home heating during winter, according to the latest 2016 report by Albania's National Environment Agency.

State auditors say the Albanian government has no concrete data on the consequences that air pollution has on human health and the environment. “No analysis has been carried out on the expectations of the air quality policies regarding the economic, social and environmental benefits,” says the report.

Pollution is punishable by fines and imprisonment of up to two and ten years in cases of severe consequences on human health, but only about a dozen people are investigated into and sentenced each year despite the widespread phenomenon ranging from plants operating without pollution filters to outdated lime kilns burning old tires.

The Supreme State Audit urges the government to approve a new national action plan on air quality within 2018 following the failure to take any action on a previous 2014 strategy and carry out the immediate accreditation of its air quality stations abroad considering that there are no licensed operators to conduct this process in Albania.

Monitoring has revealed PM10 particulates exceed the daily limit value of 50 micrograms/cubic meter (50 µg/m3) by 73 days in Tirana and by 65 days in Korça at a time when under EU standards the daily limit should not be exceeded on more than 35 days in a calendar year.

The situation is also problematic in Elbasan, central Albania, where the country’s largest steel plant operates.

About 2,120 people died in 2016 in Albania due to air pollution, of whom 2,010 were victims of high concentrations of fine particles in the air, 100 of the ozone concentration and 10 of nitrogen dioxide concentration, says a report by Denmark-based European Environment Agency, an EU watchdog.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 13 - A court decision to allow the resumption of works at a controversial project in Durres, Albania's second largest city, has left unhappy civil society activists lobbying for its cancellation due to important archeological finds.

The reaction came on Tuesday following a decision by the Durres administrative court to allow after a one-year halt the resumption of works at the controversial Veliera project except for the area where some important Roman and Ottoman era discoveries were made during diggings.

The controversial "Veliera” project is a €6 million government-funded project luxury veil-like square in front of the country’s biggest port of Durres that opponents say risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next to the landmark Durres castle and Venetian tower.

Activists say they will challenge the first-instance decision to the administrative appeals court and even address Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights to cancel the project.

"We don't agree with the court decision at all. We will appeal the decision and take the case to Strasbourg," said Mirela Jorgo, a lawyer representing civil society activists in the legal battle with Durres municipality.

Civil society activists had accused Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako of abuse of power and demanded legal action for the people involved in the damage of archeological finds during the diggings.

"It was a decision which saw judges locked inside for three hours. Under strong political pressure, it was decided that works in the "A" archeological zone have to be halted. We had demanded that Veliera is declared an illegal construction as long it has affected the "A" zone. And the court was evasive about that which means neither fish nor fowl," lawyer Mirela Jorgo wrote on social media.

“The abuse of power and destruction of public good aspects were handed to the prosecutor's office. For us, this remains a victory as it showed that the court's strength toward political pressure can also shake. In the meantime, it is clearly evident that Veliera remains an illegal project," she added.

The court decision also comes after the local municipality had agreed to change its initial project and preserve the finds in the 300 m2 area after a mid-2017 decision by the country's National Archaeology Council to integrate them into a revised project.

“The revised project is the same to the initial one, but includes the archeological finds, putting them on display and making them accessible,” Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako said last January as the one-year legal battle continued.

Works in the Veliera square are almost finished with an underpass having already been completed, but part of the site has been in ruins, causing traffic in the past year.

Some ancient Roman ruins, an Ottoman era building, a cannon and some catapult stones were discovered during the ‘Veliera’ construction works in early 2017.

The €6 million ‘Veliera’ project will be a 12,000 m2 square with a giant 2,000 m2 veil on it.

The project has been criticized for its high cost at a time when Durres suffers prolonged tap water cuts, lacks a waste treatment plant with waste being burned in the open air just outside the city and faces frequent flash flooding due to lack of proper sewer systems, hampering its key tourism industry.

Socialist Party Mayor Vangjush Dako, now in his third consecutive term as Durres Mayor, has often been publicly accused by political opponents of increasing concrete areas in Durres due to alleged interests in a concrete company where he was a shareholder before taking office as Durres Mayor in 2007.

The Veliera project comes after Durres reconstructed its central square and archaeology museum in the past few years, making it more attractive to tourists.

The new bigger municipality of Durres following the 2015 administrative reform has a resident population of 175,000 people and includes five former coastal municipalities and communes.

The city’s population more than doubles in summer with dozens of thousands of local and foreign holidaymakers.

Founded in the 7th century BC under the name Epidamnos, Durres has been continuously inhabited for 27 centuries and is one of the oldest cities in Albania. The city boasts a Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century A.D, one of the largest in the Balkan.
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                    [post_date] => 2018-02-13 08:32:01
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 12 - Ermal Meta, who made history last year as the first Albanian-born artist to finish third in Italy’s prestigious Sanremo music festival, won this year the festival’s grand prize with Fabrizio Moro and will be representing Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon next May. 

Meta, who is a 36-year-old singer and songwriter, left Fier when he was 13 years old, to pursue his creative dream. Describing the Sanremo victory as an incredible emotional experience, he thanked his record company, for believing in him when no one else did.

The artists’ triumph was highlighted after a temporary suspension over suspicions of copyright infringement and disregard of the festival’s regulation. Upon investigation, Rai - the festival’s TV channel host - allowed Meta and Moro to compete and eventually win the contest.

“Music can reach where words fail,” Meta and Moro said concerning their song, which carried the message of countering terrorism. 

“I write what I feel like writing. It is an inward instinct and it is important to do things with transparency,” Meta added.

The artist is familiar to producing songs with powerful messages. Last year’s song, which gave him third place at Sanremo, was titled Forbidden to Die - a pop ballad as an appeal to say no to domestic violence. 

“I dedicate this song to my mother who taught me to disobey to every kind of violence. The song is a hymn to life. One should confront life face-to-face. We are the result of proven experience, but we also possess the strength to become what we want to. It is important to speak out and share to get out of loneliness,” Meta told Italy’s Ansa news agency last year.

Meta first migrated to Bari, in the South of Italy, where he lived for 20 years and kick-started his career, to later move to Milano. 

Despite his long stay abroad, Meta has continuously talked about his background, saying Albania is the place he was born and where he’d like to spend his later years. Albanian influences can be spotted throughout his song repertoire; in Forbidden to Die, for example, he also mentions his childhood teacher, Margarita Feka.

Meta’s career began as the lead guitarist of group Ameba 4 and songwriter for some of the most well-known Italian artists, such as Marco Mengoni, Emma, Chiara, Annalisa, Giusy Ferreri, etc. His first major breakthrough was back in 2016, when he came first in Sanremo’s Newcomers section.

Meta’s Sanremo win was also widely commented in the country. Head of opposition and Democratic Party Lulzim Basha shared a Facebook post saying that Meta’s triumph is a reminder talented Albanians exist and that the future belongs to those Albanians who are driven by hard work and determination. 

This year, three Albanian origin artists will be competing in the Eurovision song contest - Bushpepa, representing Albania, Meta, representing Italy, and Albanian-born Eleni Foureira, whose origin is also Fier and will be representing Cyprus with the song Fuego.

 
                    [post_title] => Albanian-Italian wins Sanremo festival, to represent Italy in Eurovision Song Contest
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                    [post_date] => 2018-02-13 08:17:14
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 12 - A small collection of artworks by Albanian sculptor Hytbi Tarelli, who lived and passed away in Toronto, Canada, two years ago, have been displayed in the Albanian Embassy in Canada with the help of the artist’s family. 

Tarelli’s work, focusing in the field of figurative art, was dedicated to Albanian prominent figures and the country’s national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeg through the years, but has also included portraits of famous personalities in the fields of theater and music.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs valued the initiative through a Facebook post, saying “the works of Hytbi Tarelli who lived in Toronto and dedicated his major activity to Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeg, have taken place in the Albanian Embassy in Canada. Praise to the family for the generous gesture. The artist will live on through his art.”

Tarelli was born in 1952, in the Devoll valley. He took his first art classes at the age of ten, by well-known Albanian artists of the time. His first exhibition was held in 1968.

Despite graduating in the field of natural sciences in 1975, he never stopped engaging in his passion and organized three major personal exhibitions during his lifetime, both in Albania and Toronto, where he migrated with his family after spending some years in Greece first.

With sculptures and painting well-known throughout the Albanian community and beyond, Tarelli reached out and built bridges among Albanians in the diaspora and at home. One of his most praised sculptures was dedicated to another national hero, Adem Jashari, and country’s saint Mother Teresa. 

Tarelli passed away in Canada, in Nov. 2016. 

 
                    [post_title] => Albanian sculptor’s art lives on in Albanian Embassy in Canada  
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                    [post_date] => 2018-02-08 09:41:38
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 8 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) climbed up the 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report ranking from 23rd to 22nd place among top think tanks in Central and Eastern Europe. 

The report, launched by the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania, places AIIS among the best think tanks in the world and the only Albanian think tank to consistently make the list. 

“AIIS consistently performs well in this very important global index thanks to our consolidated reputation in the region and beyond as well as our excellence in research and projects in the field of  security, foreign policy and international relations studies and activities in Albania,” Dr. Albert Rakipi, the AIIS executive director, has previously told Tirana Times.

In the global ranking of Think Tanks in 2017, AIIS also climbed up 79th in the ranking for Defense and Security Research area globally and 83rd in the ranking for Foreign Policy and International Relations — globally.

More than 3,500 experts from academia, civil society and decision making institutions participated in the process of nominating and then ranking institutions worldwide in this one of a kind exercise that has become a reference point for those who seek to understand the standing of think tanks whether by geographical or thematic classification.

Recognizing the quality of research and advocacy of the AIIS and collecting the positive feedback from peers, the Index acknowledges for the fourth year in a row the professionalism and impact of AIIS work.

The ranking is organized on a yearly basis by Think Tanks and Civil Society Programs at the University of Pennsylvania, which conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world.

AIIS is committed to continue keeping high standards in its work, the think tank has previously told Tirana Times, with which it has a long-standing partnership.

AIIS is currently implementing long term strategic projects that relate to the European future of Albania: AIIS has established the Joint Centre for Albania-Serbia relations to assist normalization of bilateral relations; completed influential research on the phenomenon of radicalism and foreign fighters in Albania and continued with its communication initiatives for Albania’s integration process. Their work in 2018 will yield positive next steps in all the relevant fields.

 
                    [post_title] => AIIS ranks higher in 2017 global think tank index among world’s best 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-02-07 14:25:47
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-07 13:25:47
                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_135698" align="alignright" width="300"]Armand Duka was re-elected as head of Albania's football association for a fifth four-year term Armand Duka was re-elected as head of Albania's football association for a fifth four-year term[/caption]

TIRANA, Feb. 7 - Armand Duka has been reelected as the president of Albania’s football association, getting a fifth consecutive four-year term at the helm of the country’s most important sports organization.

In a voting session held on Wednesday at a seaside hotel in the city of Durres, 55-year-old incumbent president Duka beat main rival Bashkim Fino, a former Prime Minister and current ruling Socialist Party MP, by 38 votes to 24.

The winner was decided in a run-off vote after none of the initial three candidates managed to get the qualified majority of 2/3 of votes by the 66 delegates.

Shpetim Hala, a sports journalist and former referee in inferior Italian football leagues, managed to get no votes at all.

Speaking after his re-election Duka said the elections held by the football association’s General Assembly met standards.

"I am happy and excited not because of the fact that I will be the president, but because of the reliability and I feel deeply obliged that something more difficult awaits me starting today," Duka said.

The 55-year incumbent president and businessman with stakes in several food and electronic equipment companies has been in office as the president of Albania’s most popular sport since 2002 and managed to get easily re-elected although having no prior sports background.

His main rival Bashkim Fino described the process as irregular and warned he would take legal action in Albania, the European and world football governing bodies UEFA and FIFA and even address Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

A former short-term consensual Prime Minister during the country's 1997 turmoil, Fino strongly opposed the participation of 12 sports associations which he called ‘ghost organizations’ in the voting process, claiming they were unregistered with local courts.

"We will take this issue to the end, for the football's own good. We will respect Albanian courts and then address not only the Court of Arbitration for Sport but also FIFA," says Fino, a 55-year-old veteran politician.

Albanian international and club football has progressed in the past few years as the national side made a first ever appearance at a major competition and Skenderbeu made it twice to the UEFA Europa League group stage although it was banned for one year from international football on match fixing allegations in the 2016-2017 season and had its 2016 Superliga title lifted.

After its debut Euro 2016 appearance, Albania failed to make it to the Russia 2018 World Cup finishing third in tough qualifying group stage with Spain and Italy.

New coach Christian Panucci, the successor of Gianni De Biasi, has been set a Euro 2020 qualification target following his good start with the national side since taking over in mid-2017.
                    [post_title] => Incumbent president re-elected for fifth consecutive term as head of Albania’s football 
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            [post_date] => 2018-02-22 09:40:39
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            [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_135918" align="alignright" width="300"]skenderbeu 2 "Don't kill our dream," "We live football, We love Skenderbeu," "Our city is not a threat, our city wants justice," Skenderbeu, our dream" were some of the slogans fans carried during the march in Korça, the southeastern Albanian city known as the “the little Paris of Albania.” Photo: KF Skenderbeu[/caption]

TIRANA, Feb. 22 – Thousands of fans packed Korça’s main boulevard this week in a peaceful march to protest and petition against UEFA disciplinary proceedings that could see Skenderbeu banned for up to ten years from European competition on match-fixing allegations.

"Don't kill our dream," "We live football, We love Skenderbeu," "Our city is not a threat, our city wants justice,"   Skenderbeu, our dream" were some of the slogans fans carried during the march in Korça, the southeastern Albanian city known as the “the little Paris of Albania,” and where football has been one of the main city entertainment in the past decade following Skenderbeu’s domination of the national championship and its two historic appearances at the Europa League group stage.

In a petition to European football's governing body, UEFA, Skenderbeu fans say punishing their club means punishing a whole city and a success story in Albanian football in the past few years.

"In the past eight years, Skenderbeu has been the city's happiness. Football is more than a game for Korça, it's believing. In Korça, everybody has believed and believes in fair play from this team which has won six national championships and appeared twice at the Europa League,” reads the petition.

"Skenderbeu was founded in 1909 but managed to join the European family only in 2015, making a dream come true for us," the petition says referring to Skenderbeu's debut Europa League group stage appearance, the first by an Albanian club.

Petitioners say punishing Skenderbeu, a club named after Albania's national hero Skanderbeg whose 550th death anniversary this year, Albania is marking as the Pan-national Skanderbeg Year, would also be a severe blow to Skanderbeg's figure.

“Help us progress in this European path! Don't punish us!,” concludes the petition.

Albania’s most successful club of the past decade, Skenderbeu, risk facing a ten-year ban from European competition as part of an ongoing investigation into match-fixing allegations by European football’s governing body, UEFA.

The new probe comes after Skenderbeu were already handed a one-year ban from European competition for the 2016-2017 campaign on match-fixing allegations.

Skenderbeu have denied any match-fixing allegations, saying the probe into the club was initiated by “companies who want to justify the millions they get from UEFA” and the “anti-Skenderbeu clan in Albania,” implying Brussels-based Federbet gaming anti-corruption organization and opponents in the Albanian Superliga.
            [post_title] => Thousands petition UEFA against Skenderbeu’s disciplinary proceedings
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