Kosovo makes his­toric de­but

The Myanmar Times - - World -

DE­SPITE sev­eral po­ten­tial play­ers re­main­ing in “limbo”, Kosovo will make his­tory to­day, play­ing their first ever com­pet­i­tive match in a World Cup qual­i­fier against Fin­land.

Kosovo be­came the 210th mem­ber of FIFA in May, but ex­cite­ment ahead of the Balkans out­fit’s his­toric match has been marred by ques­tions over who will be al­lowed to play for the team.

Ac­cord­ing to FIFA’s rules, some­one who has played for another na­tional team can­not nor­mally switch al­le­giance, so a num­ber of Kosovo’s po­ten­tial play­ers have had to ap­ply in­di­vid­u­ally for spe­cial per­mis­sion – which is still awaited.

“It is un­prece­dented as they played for other na­tional teams while Kosovo was not a mem­ber of FIFA ... Now they should be given this op­por­tu­nity like every­one else,” the head of Kosovo’s foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion Fadil Vokrri told AFP.

“FIFA should al­low a one-off ex­emp­tion for Kosovo.”

A FIFA spokesper­son said the var­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tions “are cur­rently pend­ing and be­ing in­ves­ti­gated” but he could not give an es­ti­ma­tion of how long the de­ci­sion process would take.

Kosovo uni­lat­er­ally de­clared in­de­pen­dence from Bel­grade in 2008 and re­mains un­recog­nised by sev­eral coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ser­bia and Rus­sia.

Ser­bia ve­he­mently op­posed Kosovo’s ad­mit­tance to world gov­ern­ing body FIFA, which came soon af­ter Europe’s gov­ern­ing body UEFA nar­rowly ap­proved their mem­ber­ship.

“It is a dream com­ing true,” mid­fielder Al­ban Muja wrote on his Face­book page. He in­tends to play for Kosovo af­ter switch­ing from Al­ba­nia.

A to­tal of 24 play­ers with roots in Kosovo cur­rently play for six other na­tional teams.

Most of them play for Al­ba­nia, who are mourn­ing the de­ci­sion of four play­ers so far from their Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships squad ear­lier this sum­mer to play for Kosovo.

Oth­ers in­clude Bel­gium’s Ad­nan Januzaj, Fin­land’s Per­parim Hetemaj and Swe­den’s Ar­ber Zeneli, who all await the green light from FIFA.

Amid the un­cer­tainty ahead of the game at Fin­land’s Turku Sta­dium, coach Al­bert Bun­jaki has had to op­er­ate with two lists of foot­ballers – 15 who can def­i­nitely play and 11 await­ing per­mis­sion.

He de­cided to as­sem­ble the first meet­ing of the team on Septem­ber 1 in Turku for in­ten­sive train­ing ahead of the match.

De­spite the com­pli­ca­tions, Bun­jaki re­mained up­beat.

“This is just the be­gin­ning of the project of cre­at­ing a good team for the next Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships,” he said.

Choos­ing to switch teams was an ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sion ac­cord­ing to Nor­way’s Valon Ber­isha, who has ap­plied to play for Kosovo.

“I was born in Nor­way and ev­ery­thing I achieved was thanks to Nor­way. I was in limbo for three to four weeks not know­ing what to do.”

In the end, he de­cided to play for Kosovo while his brother Ve­ton will stick with Nor­way, he said.

Along with Fin­land, Kosovo will face Croa­tia, Tur­key, Ice­land and Ukraine in their de­but in World

‘‘It is un­prece­dented, as they played for other na­tional teams while Kosovo was not a mem­ber of FIFA. Now they should be given this op­por­tu­nity like every­one else.”

Fadil Vokrii

Head of Kosovo foot­ball Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

As they don’t yet have a sta­dium that meets in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, Kosovo will play the open­ing home qual­i­fier against Croa­tia on Oc­to­ber 6 in the Al­ba­nian city of Shko­dra.

Kosovo’s of­fi­cials are hop­ing the sta­dium in the cap­i­tal Pristina will be ready for World Cup qual­i­fiers by June next year.

Ba­jram Jashan­ica, a de­fender for Al­ba­ni­ans Sk­ender­beu Korce, has al­ready made his de­but for Kosovo in a friendly against Tur­key, and said the long wait for to­day’s match was mo­ti­vat­ing the team.

“Emo­tions are run­ning high around us. We have to over­come them in or­der to achieve a good re­sult.” –

Photo: AFP

Ivory Coast’s Marc Goua (right) fights for the ball with Sierra Leone’s Kwame Guee (left) at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake on Septem­ber 3.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.