TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The Albanian Football Association on Tuesday called on the country’s prime minister to let vaccinated fans attend the national team's World Cup qualifier against England.

The association asked Prime Minister Edi Rama for help in a bid to fill 30% of the seats — or about 6,500 — at the National Arena in Tirana for Sunday's match.

“I would suggest that all persons who have been vaccinated, profiting from the mass vaccination that you as a government have been holding ... are allowed at the stadium,” association president Armand Duka wrote in his letter, which was made available to The Associated Press.

Only about 50,000 medical personnel, teachers and people over 80 have been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far in Albania, which has a population of 2.8 million.

The Albanian Health Ministry had denied the association's request due to rising daily cases of the virus.

In the last two weeks there have been repeated efforts to allow fans. Edoardo Reja, Albania’s Italian coach, has said spectators would motivate his players, and that soccer without fans "cannot exist.”

“The match with spectators has a different taste,” Reja said last week.

They said the request for 30% capacity is in line with UEFA rules.

Albania opens its qualifying campaign on Thursday at Andorra. It hosts England on Sunday and plays at San Marino next Wednesday. Poland and Hungary are the other teams in Group I.

“I am confident that you will consider this request for the good of the Albanian football and the love our fans have for the red-and-black shirt,” Duka wrote.

There have been no spectators at soccer matches in Albania for months, and gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.


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