FA chief thanks 'magnificent' fans and players

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The Independent Football

Mark Palios, the Football Association chief executive, has praised the England fans who stayed away from Saturday's Euro 2004 qualifier in Turkey and ensured the team could take part in the tournament.

The FA had been given an official warning by Uefa, the sport's European governing body, after the ugly scenes which marred their 2-0 defeat of Turkey in Sunderland in April.

With the ultimate sanction being to bar England from the finals if their fans misbehaved again, the FA refused their official ticket allocation and pleaded with supporters not to travel to the game.

That advice seemed to be heeded, with no obvious English presence in the stadium, apart from a handful of FA figures and the English media.

Just seven English fans were reportedly turned away at one of the three police cordons surrounding the Fenerbahce stadium. Palios said: "I would like to thank England fans for listening to the FA, Government and police advice in staying at home.

"The fans' support throughout this campaign has been magnificent and they played an important role in making sure that this match passed off peacefully and successfully."

The only moments of controversy came when the Turkish fans booed the English national anthem and during a tunnel incident, when Alpay was accused of pushing David Beckham in the face.

Palios also thanked the England players for making the finals after a week of unrest, in which they had criticised the FA for leaving Rio Ferdinand out of the squad after he missed a drugs test.

Praising the "magnificent" performance, he said in a statement: "The players and coaching staff deserve huge credit for remaining focused and professional at the end of a long and challenging week. We are thrilled to have reached Euro 2004 as winners of Group Seven and we now look forward to next summer in Portugal."

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