Albania: High Security For Qualifying Soccer Match Against Israel


By Fatjona Mejdini

Albanian police have ordered maximum security for the qualifying match with Israel on Saturday in Elbasan – amid media rumours of possible terror attacks.

Albanian police on Friday announced strict security measures in place for the football match with Israel that will be played at the Elbasan Arena on Saturday evening.

Around 2,000 police will be deployed to secure the match, while other security measures will also be implemented.

“Assessing the importance of this international match and the problems faced during other previous matches, the police plan to undertake detailed security measures to guarantee order before, during and after the match,” the official statement read.

Fans who are going to attend the match must enter the stadium four hours ahead of play and will be subjected to thorough examination.

“No banners with racial and political messages will be allowed in the stadium,” the police statement reads.

All parking lots and streets around the stadium will be emptied while bars around the stadium will be closed eight hours before the match.

The tight security reflects fears that the match with Israel for the World Cup Qualifiers could be a target for terrorist attacks, although official sources told BIRN that they have no information about actual threats.

“There are more media rumours than real threats to the match on Saturday,” a police source told BIRN.

However, concern was raised after the match, which was scheduled to take place in the northern city of Shkodra, was moved to Elbasan, in central Albania, 55 kilometers from Tirana.

The rumours started after the Albanian Federation of Football, which asked for the change of stadium, failed to publicly explain why this decision was made.

On November 4, Albanian police nabbed four suspected terrorists, two in Shkodra, on the border with Montenegro and the two others in the northeastern one of Peshkopi, on the border with Macedonia.

Some media reports said the arrested men in Shkodra might have planned terrorist activities related to the match with Israel.

On Thursday night, the Israeli team arrived in Tirana under very tight security.
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The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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