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Kosovo prepares warm welcome for England fans and players

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The mayor of Pristina is promising England fans and players a warm welcome for their European Championship qualifier against Kosovo, but there’s no free beer. England plays Sunday in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, after its Euro 2020 matches against Bulgaria and Montenegro were marred by racist abuse directed at its players.

Pristina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti told the Associated Press on Thursday that big celebrations have been prepared “to show there is no racism in Kosovo and also (as) a form of gratitude for London’s role in Kosovo’s war.”

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade refuses to recognize it. A bloody Serb crackdown ended after NATO intervention in 1999. Kosovo, which was accepted as a member of UEFA and FIFA in 2016, is third in Group A and plays at second-place Czech Republic on Thursday.

Big posters showing England players have been put up around downtown Pristina and other cities, with slogans like “Miresevjen broo (Welcome brother).” Ahmeti said waiters at coffee bars will wear T-shirts with words of welcome for visiting fans, and an organized celebration will be held at the stadium ahead of the match.

But one idea to hold an event offering free beer to England fans was turned down, said Ahmeti, with advice coming from the British embassy in Pristina. Hundreds of England fans — possibly more — are expected to watch the game at the 13,000-seat Fadil Vokrri stadium in Pristina.

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