Albania tightens security ahead of Italy qualifier over fears of possible terror incidents

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 9, 2017 13:16

Albania tightens security ahead of Italy qualifier over fears of possible terror incidents

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  • Albanian police authorities say they have tightened security ahead of the qualifier with what is apparently the most popular national side in Albania “to identify individuals and extremist groups with clear criminal and terrorist intentions that could severely infringe public order before, during and after the sports event.”

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TIRANA, Oct. 9 – Albania will conclude their World Cup qualifying campaign on Monday night in a tough home qualifier against neighboring Italy, one of Europe’s toughest sides, under tight security measures over fears of possible terror incidents.

Albanian police authorities say they have tightened security ahead of the qualifier with what is apparently the most popular national side in Albania “to identify individuals and extremist groups with clear criminal and terrorist intentions that could severely infringe public order before, during and after the sports event.”

Albania will play Italy tonight at the “Loro Boriçi” stadium in the northern Albanian city of Shkodra in a qualifier that does not decide much as four-times World Champions Italy have already secured their play-off opportunity as the second best group stage national side while Albania remain hopeful to preserve their third place which also depends on group leaders Spain making no concessions in their final qualifier away to Israel.

The Albanian state police say they have placed anti-terror experts at the border-crossing points with Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and at Durres Port to stop individuals with radical or extremist tendencies and will also be monitoring social networks to identify calls inciting extremism.

The “Illyrian Elite” group which in last March’s first leg qualifier with Italy in Palermo threw flares on the pitch, leading to the game’s suspension for several minutes and costing Albania a CHF 100,000 (€92,000) fine by FIFA, will not be allowed to attend the match.

Meanwhile, the main “Red & Black” fan group, which has been boycotting the national side’s home matches since the Nov. 2016 home qualifier with Israel over what they call “state terror against fans” will not be attending the final World Cup qualifier when a farewell ceremony will also be held in honor of legendary Albania captain Lorik Cana. Albania’s most capped player with 93 games, Cana quit the national side and club football at 33 in mid-2016 after leading the Red & Blacks to a historic first ever appearance in a major competition such as France 2016.

The run-up to the Nov. 2016 Albania-Israel World Cup qualifier led to several arrests in Albania and Kosovo over an alleged planned terrorist attack after local authorities were tipped off by Israeli intelligence services.

Only about 1,200 Italy fans, 700 of whom Italians residing in Albania, will be attending the match at the 16,000-seat Loro Boriçi stadium.

Albania take on Italy after being thrashed 3-0 in the away qualifier with Spain last weekend while Italy were held to 1-1 draw by Macedonia. Albania were beaten 2-0 in the first-leg away qualifier in Palermo under former coach Gianni De Biasi and it’s now Christian Pannuci’s turn to show what he can do against a big national side, having only beaten Lichtenstein and drawn against Macedonia since taking over in mid-2017.

Not in their best days, Italy will be fighting for a victory to be seeded in the pot with the four highest-ranked teams for the Russia 2018 play-off draw of Europe’s eight best runners-up.

The Italy encounter is considered a ‘local derby’ due to half a million Albanians living in Italy and the popularity the neighboring country across the Adriatic enjoys in Albania. Some key Albanian players, including Napoli fullback Elseid Hysaj and Lazio and Atalanta goalkeepers Thomas Stratosha and Etrit Berisha play in Italy’s Serie A while several others were born or grew up as professional players in Italy.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 9, 2017 13:16