The Albanian Football Federation has accused the Socialist Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj of using threats and foul language to get his man elected head of the country’s football governing body.

Mayor Accused of Using Threats to Shape Albania Football Election

Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj. Photo: BIRN

The Albanian Football Federation, FSHF, the country’s football governing body, has accused Erion Veliaj, Socialist Party Mayor of Tirana, of using threats against board members ahead of a vote for the head of the Federation.

It has provided a tape containing a conversation in which Veliaj is heard using slurs, coarse language and threats. One of his spokespersons later said it was only “boys’ talk”. Veliaj has confirmed the veracity of the tape but said it should be heard in context.

The Football Federation has been led by Armando Duka, 60, since 2002 and he is currently running for another four-year mandate.

Heads of the federated soccer teams and delegates of regional organisations are expected to vote in the FSHF election. Duka is running against a sports commentator, Dritan Shakohoxha, who apparently has the support of Veliaj.

Veliaj has not hidden his interest in the election of this nominally nonpolitical position, accusing the current leadership of corruption.

Most football teams in Albania are owned by local municipalities, whose mayors vote in the elections. But about one third of seats in the assembly are reserved for associations.

One of these associations, the Regional Association of Football, Tirana, representing PE teachers in Tirana’s public schools, met Veliaj lately, which is when the mayor made the alleged threats.

The association’s chairman will vote for the Federation chairman and Veliaj allegedly pressured members of the association so that his own man would become chairman of the association.

“We are no whores that hide, we are men, and 40 men will go there and say, these are our votes. Open the door and we will piss on your home, so you can understand that you have had your fun and that is enough,” Veliaj told members of this association.

Veliaj described the Federation as the only agency in the country “not under our control”, referencing the ruling Socialists.

“The notary is there at the end of the hall…. You will go there and sign up. Tomorrow we vote only on the chairman, who is Ed Prodani,” Veliaj is heard saying in the conversation.

A spokesperson of the municipality told BIRN that Veliaj “stands by the content of the conversation,” asking the media to bear in mind the context. The spokesperson also described the conversation as “boys’ talk”.

Eduard Prodani told BIRN he hopes to get elected head of the regional association but refused to comment on the way Veliaj had spoken to its members. “I hope I get elected,” Prodani told BIRN. “You should ask Veliaj [about the slurs],” he added.

Duka has survived two previous attempts by politicians aiming to take over his position. In 2018, he beat Bashkim Fino, then a Socialist MP.

He has also called on FIFA and its policy of protecting football from political interference to protect himself from Veliaj’s open assault.

But Veliaj is heard in the taped conversation saying he is not worried about that. “Not FIFA or UEFA but not even Jesus or Mohammed would not stop this,” he told members of the regional association.

Several Albanian media have claimed that Special Prosecutors from SPAK and the Tirana Prosecutorial Office have started investigating Duka, as Veliaj demands.

However, asked by BIRN, both prosecutors offices denied doing so.

“SPAK cannot be used by anybody for pressures,” the Special Prosecution head Arben Kraja told BIRN.

“The head of the FSHF is not a subject of special prosecutors’ work,” he added.

The head of Tirana’s Prosecution Office, Elisabeta Imeraj, also denied investigating Duka. “The Prosecution of Tirana carries out investigations fully independently,” she said.

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