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Boycott by Albanian soccer clubs goes into a second week

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s top soccer clubs took their boycott of the new season into a second week on Saturday and called on the government to fulfill their request for more financial support. All the teams went on to the pitch only for the captains to apologize for the boycott, read a statement aimed at the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama and leave.

“We are not looking for luxury, for wealth, but for more attention to be given to the Albanians’ most loved sport,” the statement said. The Football Professional League, which comprises nine of the 10 clubs in the top division, wants the government to exclude players from paying income tax for up to 10 years — an increase from the current two years.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Anila Denaj told the clubs — who are in dire financial straits — that no more could be done during these hard times for the country. Former wrestler Fidel Ylli, who is a lawmaker for the ruling Socialist Party and in charge of negotiations with the clubs, said the government had analyzed the requests made by the players but added that “sport should be kept away from politics. Sport should unite us.”

Armand Duka, president of the Albanian Football Federation, made public on Friday an open letter in which the prime minister was reminded of a pledge he made 18 months ago to support the clubs. Many of the country's footballers move abroad because of the lack of financial support they receive, and most players in the national team play in other European nations.

The club players have promised not to play again until their requests are met.

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

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