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Macron apologizes to Albania on wrong anthem at soccer game

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s prime minister says French President Emmanuel Macron has apologized to him after the wrong national anthem was played ahead of a European Championship qualifier between the two countries on Saturday.

Edi Rama tweeted Sunday that Macron expressed “his sincere apology for the scandalous gaffe of the French Football Federation with our National Flag anthem!”

France won the Group H game in Paris 4-1.

Albanian players looked bemused – and fans angry – when Andorra’s anthem was played instead of Albania’s. Andorra is in the same qualifying group as France and Albania.

The start of the match at Stade de France was delayed for about 10 minutes, and the right anthem then played.

Another incident occurred when the stadium announcer mixed up Armenia – which is not in the same group – with Albania.

France’s next opponent is Andorra at home on Tuesday.

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

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.

[READ: Rashford scores in Man United win]

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.