‘You started it’, regretful Albanian FA tells Poles

October 15 – The Albanian FA says it deplores the violent behaviour of its fans at this week’s World Cup qualifying defeat to Poland but in an attempt to gain the moral high ground blamed visiting Polish fans for provocation.

The crucial qualifier in Tirana was suspended for more than 20 minutes after home fans threw objects at the visiting players. Karol Swidersk, who scored Poland’s goal, and his team-mates were pelted with plastic drinks bottles from the stands, prompting the players to leave the pitch.

Play finally resumed with 13 minutes left and the Poles held on for a priceless victory in the race for second place in their group as they leapfrogged Albania en route for a playoff spot.

Albania are bidding to reach a World Cup finals for the first time and 24 hours after the game FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against both the Albanian and Polish federations without specifying the offenses.

The Albanian FA, clearly concerned about what punishment might be meted out, acknowledged the “incidents do not honour at all us, Albania and its wonderful fans,” adding “we had 22,000 excellent fans and only some scores of individuals spoiled all the good things done from the team.”

The statement, however, said Polish fans were guilty of “continuous provocation and a very aggressive behaviour,” and “repeatedly for about two hours hurled objects at our fans in two areas of the stadium.”

Next May, Albania’s Air Stadium will host the first Europa Conference League final and the Albanian FA pledged to work with the local authorities ”to raise our organisational capacities.”

”We do not have violent fans. We do not have a history of problematic fans.”

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