Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final

  • Feyenoord fans cheer at a main street in the Albanian capital Tirana where the Dutch fans will follow the Europa Conference League final between Dutch club Feyenoord and Italy's Roma, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final.

    Feyenoord fans cheer at a main street in the Albanian capital Tirana where the Dutch fans will follow the Europa Conference League final between Dutch club Feyenoord and Italy's Roma, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final. Associated Press

  • A banner hanged on the building of Tirana University welcomes Roma's head coach Jose Mourinho in Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Roma will face Feyenoord on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final.

    A banner hanged on the building of Tirana University welcomes Roma's head coach Jose Mourinho in Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Roma will face Feyenoord on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final. Associated Press

  • Roma's head coach Jose Mourinho gives directions during a training session at the Fulvio Bernardini center in Rome, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, ahead of their Europa Conference League final match against Feyenoord, on Wednesday in Tirana, Albania.

    Roma's head coach Jose Mourinho gives directions during a training session at the Fulvio Bernardini center in Rome, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, ahead of their Europa Conference League final match against Feyenoord, on Wednesday in Tirana, Albania. Associated Press

  • Roma's players train at the Fulvio Bernardini training center in Rome, Tuesday, May 24, 2022 ahead of their Europa conference league final match against Feyenoord scheduled on Wednesday in Tirana, Albania.

    Roma's players train at the Fulvio Bernardini training center in Rome, Tuesday, May 24, 2022 ahead of their Europa conference league final match against Feyenoord scheduled on Wednesday in Tirana, Albania. Associated Press

  • A Feyenoord fan holds the club's flag in front of the trophy put at the main Skanderbeg Square in the Albanian capital Tirana, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. The Dutch and Italian fans will follow the Europa Conference League final between Dutch club Feyenoord and Italy's Roma, in separate "fan zone" areas.

    A Feyenoord fan holds the club's flag in front of the trophy put at the main Skanderbeg Square in the Albanian capital Tirana, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. The Dutch and Italian fans will follow the Europa Conference League final between Dutch club Feyenoord and Italy's Roma, in separate "fan zone" areas. Associated Press

  • Feyenoord players take part in a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final.

    Feyenoord players take part in a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final. Associated Press

  • Fans follow the Feyenoord players training session at the National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final.

    Fans follow the Feyenoord players training session at the National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final. Associated Press

  • Feyenoord's coach Arne Slot walks with players, during a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final.

    Feyenoord's coach Arne Slot walks with players, during a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final. Associated Press

  • Feyenoord's coach Arne Slot gestures, during a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final.

    Feyenoord's coach Arne Slot gestures, during a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final. Associated Press

  • Feyenoord players practice during a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final.

    Feyenoord players practice during a training session at National Arena, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Feyenoord will face Roma on Wednesday for the Europa Conference League Final. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/24/2022 1:23 PM

TIRANA, Albania -- Tens of thousands of soccer fans are expected to visit the Albanian capital of Tirana for the Europa Conference League final between Dutch club Feyenoord and Italian team Roma on Wednesday.

Tirana Airport is preparing to welcome more than 300 flights in two days, the biggest number it has ever tried to manage. Other fans plan to land in neighboring Kosovo and Montenegro and drive to Tirana.

 

'Come in, come in,' Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, a former professional basketball player, said while addressing the tourists.

Many Italian, Dutch and other foreigners have been walking the streets of Tirana in recent days. Up to 100,000 soccer fans are expected in the city despite each club being allocated only 4,000 tickets for the inaugural final of the third-tier European tournament, which was designed to give smaller clubs a shot at a continental competition.

Capacity at the National Arena is about 21,000. There are expected to be 650 stewards inside the stadium and thousands of police officers outside for the match.

Albanian authorities have taken several precautionary steps for what they want to be a 'festive day.' Wednesday was declared a public holiday, but police, health and other service employees will be working.

Both Feyenoord and Roma are storied clubs with big fan bases. Their supporters will be gathered in separate 'fan zones' about one kilometer apart.

The partying has already begun, much to dismay of some locals. On Monday, residents of an apartment building in downtown Tirana threw water to hush Dutch fans drinking beer below late at night.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Tuesday, Albanian police at the main Skanderbeg Square pushed away a small group of Italian fans who had been hurling water bottles to keep them away from Dutch fans.

'We won't tolerate acts of violence and vandalism,' Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said.

Downtown Tirana will be a pedestrian-only zone on Wednesday as part of measures 'to organize in the most exemplary way one of the most major events that have occurred in Albania,' Interior Minister Bledi Cuci has said.

Some main roads linking Tirana to the western city of Durres or the airport will be closed and only fans with tickets or those going to fan zones will be allowed in.

The Europa Conference League trophy was put on display at Skanderbeg Square, which will also host a 'fan festival' with concerts, drinks and games.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, picked Tirana as host in December 2020, one year after the new stadium officially opened and before any team qualified to enter the debut competition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The inaugural final is a higher-profile match than what was envisioned by many in 2018 when UEFA decided to create the Europa Conference League. Its aim was to give more opportunities to clubs in lower-ranked countries.

An even smaller stadium - the Eden Arena in Prague - is set to host the 2023 final.

___

Follow Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.