Shamrock Rovers’ European opponents FC Shkupi have said they are determined to ‘respond as a team’ to the ‘evil’ done to them after they were forced to land in Shannon rather than Dublin for tonight’s Europa League qualifier in Tallaght.
The North Macedonian side released an extraordinary message on their social media channels this morning complaining about the indirect route to Ireland, and alleged that the Irish government did not listen to a plea from UEFA to help Shkupi land in the capital.
They have called on the North Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get involved so Shkupi can get out via Dublin after the game rather than making the return trip to Shannon.
“Unfortunately this has not been done to any other team except the North Macedonian team, our loneliness has emerged again as we progressed on the European road,” read a statement.
“Despite our budget, we were trying to keep our players comfortable by hiring a charter plane and paying thousands of euros to ensure that our players could make it to the Europa League (tie) in good health but the Irish government did not listen to UEFA, despite the intervention of UEFA, landed us 300km from Dublin and gave our team and undeserved treatment on this journey.
“We would like to say to the Irish that they should know well that we have a very characterful (sic) team. The reward of being a team is to respond as a team to the evil done to you. In the same, today our team will show you a character it is, like lions on the field, it will show that there is no team that will not bow down to such cheap games, such cheap games should not have a place in football, they should not go unpunished.
“You landed Ludogorets (Rovers’ previous opponents) in Dublin. Could you treat us the same if any Italian, Spanish, German or English team showed up? We hope our government will respond to this situation.”
It’s understood that Shkupi did receive some help from Rovers and the FAI with regard to their travel position.
Their statement does not reflect the reality that the aviation picture has severely complicated logistics around European matches this year – and Irish sides have been equally affected. Problems such as a shortage of charter flights and a reduced number of slots at Dublin Airport, influenced in part by staff issues, have made it harder for club sides to use the country’s main landing pad whereas in previous years it was routine.
Rovers had to travel out of Shannon (the airport is actually a 215km trip from Dublin) for their opening Champions League tie with Hibernians of Malta, while they weren’t able to get a charter to Bulgaria and therefore had to split the group for a nightmare journey to the first leg – involving multiple flights and a bus journey - which took another negative turn when they had to change hotel because of inadequate facilities. Stephen Bradley has pointed to the travel as a key factor in his side’s 3-0 defeat that left them with too much of a mountain to climb. While Hibernians travelled on scheduled flights, Ludogorets were able to get in and out of Dublin.
However, Slovenian side Mura, who faced St Patrick’s Athletic in the Europa Conference League, had to travel to Knock to fly out of the country after their Richmond Park meeting. And the Saints – who are in Sofia for their third round tie tonight – also had to make the long bus trip to Ireland West to fly to Bulgaria.