Albania coach wants fans at the stadium for England match


TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s national team soccer coach on Sunday called on the government to let a limited number of spectators to attend its World Cup qualifier against England later this month to help motivate the team.

But the Albanian Health Ministry said that due to the rising daily cases of the coronavirus, no spectators would be allowed to watch the World Cup Group I qualifier on March 28.

The Albanian Football Association had asked, in line with UEFA rules, to fill 30% of the seats — or about 6,500 — at the National Arena in Tirana.

Edoardo Reja, Albania’s Italian coach, said that players would be greatly pleased to be watched by spectators “who would criticize, motivate (them) … because football without public cannot exist.”

“The match with spectators has a different taste,” Reja said when introducing his squad ahead of three qualifiers this month — away to Andorra and San Marino and at home against England.

Poland and Hungary are the other teams in Group I.

“If other countries would accept such a thing it would be good that Albania accepted the request too,” he said.

There have been no spectators at football matches in Albania for months, and gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.

Reja has included many youngsters in the squad, including midfielder Nedim Bajrami of FC Empoli, defender Mario Mitaj of AEK Athens, midfielders Enis Cokaj and Sherif Kallaku of Lokomotiva Zagreb, and forward Florian Kamberi of Aberdeen.

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