Saturday, 21 August 2010

Pohnpei to tour Guam

Coyne Airways have flown in with a sponsorship deal that will enable the Pohnpei State team to tour Guam from October 1 and 8.

A new Pohnpei shirt will be produced for the short tour bearing the Coyne Airways logo and the air cargo firm, which serves the Caspian, Middle East and Asia, will give updates on the team's progress at "We are delighted to help the team fulfill their dream," said owner Larry Coyne. "We understand how distance and logistics can pose such a challenge to a remote island like Pohnpei and we are proud to be the ones to step in and help."

An 18-man squad has been named for the tour but only 15 players will make the journey. Dutch-born winger Yafeth Konings, who previously represented Indonesia, and SDA FC striker Matthew Carlot have joined a squad that will be trimmed on September 21.

The squad train twice weekly at 5.00 am on top of evening sessions at PICS Field, while friendlies are played against an Island All-Star XI made up of overseas players on Pohnpei but the state of the island’s only pitch is causing concern with injuries to several key State players.

Poor weather and an inefficient drainage system can cause flooding to a pitch often full of frogs. Divots – not frogs – have injured Pohnpei State players Roger Nakasone (pictured), Denson Fairfield and Brian Taylor but with Pohnpei – one of the four islands that makes up Micronesia – not a member of FIFA, the island has no fund to repair the pitch or improve the drainage so training was briefly shifted to Daini Field, the College of Micronesia’s baseball field.

To join FIFA, Micronesia needs to show that football is flourishing on all four islands and the Federated States of Micronesia Football Association (FSMFA) has been in touch with the Oceania Football Federation over the possibility of joining and is working to encourage the game in the other islands of Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap.

Paul Watson, the FSM’s English head coach, and his assistants, fellow Englishman Matthew Conrad and the Nepalese expat Dilshan Senarathgoda set up a league in Pohnpei and want to do the same in Chuuk and Yap. Conrad and Senarathgoda visited Chuuk on August 18 and will join Watson on a trip to Yap for a week in October.

Yap was the home of Micronesian football in the 1990s, when a national team took part in the Micronesian Games but with no funding, the game lost momentum and fell apart. In 2011, Pohnpei will host the Federated States of Micronesia’ games and the FSMFA want all four islands to enter football teams to demonstrate to FIFA how the sport is progressing.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

FIFA membership a decade away for Kosovo warns ex-manager

This story has also been published by When Saturday Comes

In the last week, football in Kosovo – Europe's newest country – should have received a real fillip after tacit acknowledgement by FIFA and the United Nations. Football's world body agreed to regulate the sale of players from Kosovan clubs even though the Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) is not a member, while the UN's highest court ruled that the country's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 did not break international law.

International transfer certificates will be issued for Kosovan players, a move welcomed by the country's clubs, who are losing players without transfer fees. But another FFK plea, to play international friendlies, was rejected as the world body underlined the lack of recognition. "The FFK recognises that from [this] agreement there is nothing from which a favourable view of its wish to join FIFA and UEFA can be inferred," said FIFA in a statement.

The FFK cannot join UEFA or FIFA until full statehood and membership of the UN is secured. So far 69 countries, including the US and most of the European Union, consider Kosovo a country. Spain are among several European countries who do not, along with Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Slovakia. All of these states have internal issues, such as the breakaway Turkish state of Northern Cyprus and the predominantly Hungarian-speaking areas seeking greater autonomy within Romania; recognising the Kosovans would only fuel their own problems.

"Qualifiers for Euro 2012 begin in September and Kosovo will not participate," says former Kosovo manager Edmond Rugova (pictured). "Time is going by and the youth of Kosovo is being ignored and discriminated against. Who would have thought that this was going to continue even when Kosovo [was an] independent and democratic country?" Rugova, a former Yugoslav youth international and later a striker for New York Cosmos in the NASL, returned from the US to take charge of Kosovo.

Struggling to find fixtures, Rugova focused on holding training camps for young Kosovans who had fled his country during the 1999 war with Serbia. At a camp in Basel in 2008, Rugova came across a talented 16-year-old striker called Xherdan Shaqiri. To the surprise of many Swiss fans, Shaqiri joined two other exiled Kosovans – Valon Behrami of West Ham and FC Nuremburg's Albert Bunjaku – in Ottmar Hitzfeld's squad that went to this summer's World Cup.

Discouraged by the stasis that Kosovo's footballers have been left in, Rugova has returned to the US and does not expect any change until the opposition from Serbia, Russia, China and Spain is overcome. "Kosovo will have to watch Kosovar players represent other countries and wonder," says Rugova. "I said it would take at least ten years until Kosovo is recognised by FIFA, now I say it will take ten years if Kosovo is lucky."