FOOTBALL AROUND THE WORLD

Albania
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The Independent Online
Last month we reported that Mario Kempes, Argentina's 1978 World Cup hero, was to become the first foreign coach in Albania when he joined the First Division club, Lushnja. Now we are glad to put the record straight. The first foreign coach in the impoverished Balkan country did indeed arrive this season - but in September, not December, and he is a 49-year- old Welshman called Ken Jones.

No World Cup winners' medals feature in Jones' career - he played 70 League games for Wrexham, Crystal Palace and Swindon - but his Albanian adventure is just as remarkable as that of Kempes. After his League days ended Jones joined the police force and played for, coached and managed the Great Britain police side. He also spent five years coaching Stafford Rangers, but has not been involved in club football for several years.

Now, though, Jones is coaching Albania Tabak, a First Division club from the town of Librazhd. "It was arranged by British Executive Services Overseas [a government-funded agency] and I went over there in September," Jones said yesterday. "I go back in February after their winter break. They wanted a foreign coach to raise the club's profile.

"I've got 24 professional players to work with, but the best-paid only earns about pounds 90 a month," Jones added. "The facilities are not good." Nevertheless, Jones is doing his best in his Balkan outpost and had steered his side up to seventh place in the League by the winter break.

When he returns to Albania next month, an English fire engine will be making the same journey. The town of Librazhd did not have one, so, with the help of the Staffordshire Emergency Humanitarian Aid Group, Jones has arranged the provision of medical supplies plus the surplus fire engine. Now there's an achievement that Mario Kempes might struggle to emulate...

Cyprus

Football fans in Cyprus have been gripped by allegations of a betting scandal involving their national team.

The Cypriot Football Association has demanded a government inquiry into allegations that last month's World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria was rigged. It wants an investigation into bookmakers' accounts to find out how much money was bet on Cyprus to lose the match - and who placed the bets.

This follows local media allegations that some of the Cyprus players had bet large sums of money on their team losing. The Bulgarians won 3-1. "We want a thorough, in-depth investigation," the FA chairman, Marios Lefkaritis, said. "What concerns us is that the integrity of football is at stake and even though we are talking about rumours we are embarrassed and want to clear the whole situation up."

The media allegations do not mention any specific player, but the FA has admitted that the sums bet on the match are enough to arouse suspicion, saying about pounds 30,000 was bet on the game - 10 times the usual amount. Bookmakers started rejecting bets when they became suspicious, a parliamentary inquiry was told this week.

Costas Koutsokoumnis, the FA vice-chairman, told the parliamentary inquiry: "I can only say the performance of some players [in the match against Bulgaria] was not as it normally is in other games... but this could easily be countered with an excuse, like they had the flu."

Rupert Metcalf

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