Albanian police have reported at least 10 officers and two civilians have been injured in clashes with Dutch and Italian soccer fans a day ahead of the Europa Conference League final between Feyenoord and Roma.
Two separate groups of opposing fans clashed with police on Tuesday in separate areas while trying to go towards each other, a police statement said.
Dutch fans hurled plastic, glass bottles and other objects towards police officers. In another incident, Italian fans used hard objects and batons to clash with police. The groups were gathered in separate "fan zones" one kilometre apart.
Police said 48 Italian fans and 12 Dutch "involved in violent acts" were detained.
The Albanian capital of Tirana is preparing to host the biggest sports event in their history.
Feyenoord and Roma are storied clubs with big fan bases, and notorious violent elements among their supporters.
Albanian authorities have taken extreme precautionary steps for what they want to be a "festive day," a car-free one in the downtown area on Wednesday that was declared a holiday.
Up to 100,000 fans are expected to populate Tirana despite each club being allocated only 4000 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 less than 20,000.
The Europa Conference League may have been derided when it was launched, but the climax is eagerly awaited with Tirana Airport to welcome more than 300 flights in two days, the biggest number it has ever tried to manage. Other fans plan to land in neighbouring Kosovo and Montenegro and drive to Tirana.
"Come in, come in," Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, a former professional basketball player, earlier said in addressing the tourists while Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said "we won't tolerate acts of violence and vandalism."
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.
Australian Associated Press
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