By Jay Mwamba
The Republic of Ireland’s European soccer championship qualifying game against Macedonia scheduled for Saturday is in danger of being postponed due to the threat of air strikes in the war-torn province of Kosovo.
A decision by FIFA on whether the game will be played has been put off until Thursday, when, it is presumed, there will be a clearer picture on whether NATO air strikes are likely to take place, if they haven’t already. It has been reported that Macedonia is eager to go ahead with the game because they fear they would lose the home field if it must be rescheduled. Ireland want to play because if the game is played on another date, some English clubs, they fear, may not release their players.
For the time being, the tie is due to go ahead in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, where there has been a build-up of NATO personnel in the last few days. EUFA, European soccer’s governing body, is monitoring the situation.
A spokesman for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs advised supporters planning to travel to Macedonia to keep in touch with the FAI. "At this point, we’re not saying people shouldn’t travel, but they must be aware of the dangers," he said.
In any case, Ireland coach Mick McCarthy could not have asked for a better schedule for the Republic’s three Slavic rivals, in what’s turned out to be the toughest group in the 2000 European Soccer Championship qualifying competition.
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