Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Macedonia government must back off

ZURICH, Switzerland -- FIFA and UEFA have demanded that the government of Macedonia stop interfering with the country's football association.

The call follows a raid on the Macedonian FA last week by the country's interior ministry in which a number of sporting officials were detained.

"FIFA and UEFA are surprised by the Macedonian Ministry of Interior's action, in a move that violates the principles of autonomy that apply throughout the sports movement," the world and European governing bodies said in a joint statement.

The organizations demanded that the government "restore the normal situation" and "stop interfering immediately in running the football association."

Refusal to do so could entail further measures against Macedonia as the government's actions contravened the FIFA statutes.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski said they had not yet received the letter, and added that police were acting appropriately in their capacity to fight corruption and organized crime.

"The Interior Ministry did not prevent the Macedonian Football Federation from functioning and cannot understand this reaction when institutions are simply doing their job," Kotevski told The Associated Press.

"Indeed, we expect the federation leadership to support all efforts to shed light on the current situation."

FIFA has been taking a tough line on governments it suspects of interfering in the running of their soccer federations, often suspending national teams from taking part in international competitions until demands are met.

Macedonia are currently fifth in Euro 2008 qualifying Group E level on points with England and Israel, but trailing leaders Croatia and Russia.

Their next group game is away to Croatia on March 24.

No comments: