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French president Macron apologises to Albania over anthem blunder

7:22 PM WAT 08/09/2019
Albania France Euro 2020 qualifier 2019
Kick-off was delayed after the national anthem of Andorra was played instead of Albania ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifier

French president Emmanuel Macron apologised to his Albanian counterpart after the Football Federation of France played the wrong national anthem when the sides met in Paris on Saturday.

Kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes whilst the blunder was corrected ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifier at the Stade de France, with stadium staff compounding their error by apologizing “to Armenia” over the PA system.

The stunned visitors lined up to a rendition of the national anthem of Andorra – which was played in full – instead of their own tune Himni i Flamurit – the Pledge on the Flag.

And the French premier was quick to offer his apologies to Albanian president Edi Rama for the mix-up.

Rama said in a statement: "President Macron has offered me his sincere apology for the scandalous blunder of the French Football Federation with our national anthem.

“The French president considered this blunder an 'unacceptable mistake' and appreciated the reaction of our players.”

France ran out easy 4-1 winners against the team from the Balkans, thanks to two goals from Kingsley Coman and one each from Olivier Giroud and debutant youngster Jonathan Ikone.

It puts the world champions comfortably clear at the top of the group and looking likely qualifiers for next summer’s Europe-wide finals.

They’re tied on 12 points with Turkey and Iceland, with matches still to come against both, and with just the top two teams in the group making it to the finals.

Albania’s defeat leaves them lying in fourth, six points off a qualification spot and looking doubtful for making a reappearance at the Euro finals after making their tournament debut in France four years ago.

The anthem blunder is reminiscent of a similar mishap that occurred during last year’s Nations League, when stadium staff at Armenia’s Hrazdan Stadium played the national anthem of Lichtenstein – which uses the same melody as England’s God Save the Queen – ahead of a game against Gibraltar. 

But neither episodes were as ludicrous as when staff played the opening bars of a song by rock band Linkin Park instead of the national anthem of Malta when the team played Slovakia in 2014.