Friday, June 22, 2007

Macedonia faces FIFA exclusion

SKOPJE -- PM Nikola Gruevski issued a last-minute plea Friday for factions within Macedonian football federation to agree on a president.

An agreement is an only way to save the national teams from exclusion by the sport’s worldwide governing body.

“Instead of thinking of their own interests, both sides should consider Macedonian interests for affirmation through this sport,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

The dispute began last month when the so-called “initiative committee for saving Macedonian football” accused Haralampie Hadzi Ristevski, the president of the Football Association of Macedonia (FSM) of taking office after an illegitimate election.

Hadži Ristevki is recognized by FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, as the legitimate FSM head.

The committee elected Emil Bozinovski as president and took over the FSM building.

Last week, FIFA representative Gregory Surkis arrived in Skopje to investigate the dispute. Surkis threatened Macedonia with expulsion from FIFA membership if Hadži Ristevski is not back in his office by the end of Friday.

This would mean that Macedonia’s national team will not be able to finish qualifications for the 2008 European Championship and will not be allowed to play or organize friendly matches. Macedonian teams also would be banned from other international competitions and FSM would not receive financial support from FIFA or UEFA, football’s governing body for Europe.

Bozinovski’s camp announced Wednesday they will not back off their position even if Macedonia is expelled from FIFA.

On Friday, Hadzi Ristevski called on the prime minister to be more decisive.

“I have daily contact with FIFA and UEFA and they are surprised that still nothing is done. Because of that, Macedonian football will be isolated from the world,” Hadzi Ristevski said.

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