Sunday, 15 November 2009

Serbs do not show up for Kosovo talks

This story is also on Play The Game

Former Kosovo manager, Edmond Rugova

Kosovo’s footballers could have to wait another decade for international recognition. That is the view of the country’s former manager after the Serbian Football Association did not take up an invitation from FIFA for tri-partite talks with the Kosovans in Zurich.

Edmond Rugova, a former Yugoslavia U-20 international and player for the New York Cosmos, said: “I knew that the Serbian FA was not going to show up. Their pretext was that, the Kosovo FA does not exist.
“FIFA's invitation for [the] Kosovo FA to come to the table in Zurich in an official capacity for the first time ever acknowledges that the Kosovo FA does exist and that something should be done. This is going to be a long and drawn out process, three to five maybe 10 years. It took 20 years to get to this point. It's going to take another who knows what.”

The 45 minute meeting in Zurich on November 5 was hosted by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and also included secretary general Jerome Valcke and Geoff Thompson, former chairman of the Football Association in England.

Kosovan player transfers
The talks were primarily to discuss the issue of Kosovan players being transferred out of clubs in the former Yugoslav republic, whose independence is so far recognized by 63 countries but not yet the United Nations.

The Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) delegation, which included president Fadil Vokrri, secretary general, Eroll Salihu, and vice-presidents Agim Ademi and Bekim Haxhiu, were told that this was imminent.

At FIFA’s next executive committee meeting in Cape Town in December, the introduction of certificates allowing Kosovan players to be transferred internationally should be ratified, Blatter said.

“Now there is hope”
Without UN recognition, Kosovo cannot join FIFA and enter the European championship or World Cup but after the meeting Valcke told journalists that if another 30 countries recognize Kosovo’s independence then the FFK will be automatically admitted.

A two-year wait is generally needed but Valcke said that the leagues, regulations and structures were already in place.

Kosovo want to play international friendlies and to integrate their clubs into European competition. Neither were on the agenda in Zurich but Rugova, who quit his job as Kosovo’s manager earlier this year due to lack of fixtures, still believes that last week’s talks represent progress.

“The player transfer issue is a step in the right direction but the whole set of issues remain to be decided upon sometime in the future,” said Rugova, now chief executive of Kosovo’s biggest club, Prishtina FC.
“In the end this is a positive development, the door has been opened just a little bit, we'll have to wait and see how long it will take for it to open wide. In the mean time all of us in Kosovo football will have to work even harder, because now there is hope.”

Serbia declined to participate
Tomislav Karadzic, the president of the Football Association of Serbia, initially agreed to attend the talks and all an FAS spokesman would say to Play the Game about his no-show was: “The only fair way is to talk of Kosovo within Serbia.”

In a letter to Valcke, the FAS wrote: “Regarding your call to the meeting, we would like to inform you that talks on the issue have been held with all the relevant figures within the Serbian FA. According to the stances, which were expressed on the issue during the talks, we inform you that we are unable to accept the invitation for the proposed meeting.”

The Serbs do not recognize the FFK but an alternative Kosovan football association ran out of the Kosovan city of Mitrovica. After the meeting Valcke reassured the Kosovan delegation that the FFK was the only football association that FIFA represented in Kosovo.
UEFA have not been involved in the talks and a FIFA spokesperson told Play the Game: “We don't have any comments on the talks.”

A new meeting between FIFA and FFK has been arranged and will take place in Zurich on November 25.

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