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Albania club says UEFA 10-year ban on fixing is ‘prejudiced’

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s Skenderbeu club considers as “prejudiced, unilateral and predetermined” UEFA’s 10-year ban, saying it will appeal the sanction at Switzerland’s Federal Court.

Skenderbeu’s first appeal against a 10-year exclusion from European competitions and a fine of 1 million euros ($1.13 million) issued by UEFA a year ago, was dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday.

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In a statement on its Facebook page on Saturday, Skenderbeu said the sanctions were based on “alleged public perception” from UEFA inspectors who used “unscrupulous methods” in a process “not based on scientific proof” and “no pure sport analysis.”

“The sport justice system, fanatically raised and defended from the international federations, is a facade and shield of a rotten and corrupt system existing within the sport governing institutions,” the statement added.

The case was a landmark for UEFA in 2016, for proceeding with a prosecution that relied so much on betting patterns as the main evidence, having cited “the lack of active cooperation shown by Albanian authorities.”

Using evidence of betting patterns, UEFA investigators found suspected fixing of two Champions League qualifying games and two Europa League group-stage games in 2015. UEFA also suspected Skenderbeu of helping to fix around 50 domestic matches since 2011.

After winning seven Albanian league titles in the past decade, Skenderbeu placed fourth in the Albanian league last season, and was barred from a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.

Albania fires coach after losing at home against Turkey

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian coach Christian Panucci has been fired a day after his team lost to Turkey in a European Championship qualifier.

In a statement Saturday, the Albanian soccer federation said it had terminated the 46-year-old Italian’s contract.

Albania lost 2-0 at home to Turkey in their opening Euro 2020 game on Friday.

Panucci led Albania for 15 matches – winning four, drawing two and losing nine. He became coach in July 2017, replacing another Italian, Gianni De Biasi, who took Albania to its first major tournament at the Euro 2016 finals.

Albania plays at Andorra on Monday in its next Group H game with former national team players Ervin Bulku and Sulejman Mema in charge.

France, Iceland and Moldova are also in the group.

Albanian league matches suspended after violence on referee

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) The Albanian soccer federation says it has suspended league matches following the referee association’s decision to boycott because of violence against one of their colleagues.

The federation did not say when matches will resume.

The referee association said it wants police to control stadium security after the “failed experiment” with private firms.

The federation expelled FK Kamza and three of its officials from this season’s championship and fined it following violence against a match official over the weekend. Referee Eldorjan Hamiti was hit several times Saturday at the end a league match against KF Laci, which ended 1-1 after the visitors were awarded a late penalty.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Liverpool to lose $82m Alisson to Real; Klopp turns to Lazio GK?

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Brazilian national team starter and Liverpool transfer target Alisson looks increasingly likely to only see Anfield as a visitor.

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport says Real Madrid is going to tempt Roma with an $82 million bid that could rise with add-ons.

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And Real would also offer a near $6 million annual salary to the Brazilian backstop.

It’s coincidence that this news comes on the day that both Alisson and current Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas were at opposite ends of the pitch.

Alisson had little to do, while Costa Rican backstop Navas was outstanding until Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored during stoppage time.

Meanwhile, TalkSport says the Reds are in on a different Serie A goalkeeper: Lazio’s Albanian backstop Thomas Strakosha.

The 23-year-old old played all 38 league games for the Roman club this season.

Albania soccer federation fights drone pilot’s extradition to Serbia

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation is calling on Albanian authorities to stop the extradition to Serbia of a man who reportedly flew a drone with a nationalist banner over a stadium in Serbia, a move that prompted fan violence.

Ismail Morinaj was arrested in Croatia in June based on a warrant from Serbia. A court in Dubrovnik agreed this week to extradite the 35-year-old Albanian to Belgrade.

An Albanian Football Federation statement on Saturday called on Albania’s government to intervene “to stop the extradition of Ismail Morinaj to Serbia.” The federation assured Morinaj’s family it would keep fighting to prevent his extradition.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has negotiated with Croatian authorities in the last two days on the matter, the federation said.

Justice Minister Gazmend Bardhi also has formally asked Croatian authorities not to approve the Serbian request, arguing that Morinaj could “suffer from politically motivated persecution or discrimination” if sent to Serbia.

A group of Albanians called the Red and Black Fans held a peaceful rally Saturday in front of the prime minister’s office in the Albanian capital of Tirana, urging the government to do its utmost to release Morinaj. Holding national flags, including the Croatian one, and banners they called on the government “not to betray the people.”

Albanian national team players, writing on their Facebook pages, described Morinaj’s arrest as absurd and called for his release.

Morinaj, who is from the northeastern Kukes area but lives in Italy, has been a regular at the Albanian national team’s away matches.

His brother Xhevair complained to Report TV about the government’s lack of attention to the case, saying Ismail’s life would be in danger in Serbia.

“We call on the Albanian state to intervene and stop extradition to Serbia,”

During the fans’ rally, Xhevair repeated his threat that the family would take “extreme acts” if his brother was extradited to Serbia.

Violence interrupted an October 2014 European qualifying match between the Serbia and Albania when a drone with an Albanian banner appeared over the pitch. The 0-0 game was suspended after Serbian fans injured some Albanian players who rushed a Serbian player who pulled down the banner.

UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, ultimately awarded Albania the match victory, helping the tiny western Balkan country win a spot in the Euro 2016 finals, its first major tournament.