Sunday, 26 January 2014

Kosovo: another two decades before their first competitive match?

Kosovo’s footballers could face another two decades in the wilderness despite FIFA allowing the former Yugoslav republic to play international friendlies against members of the world body. That is the view of Kosovo’s former manager, Edmond Rugova.

FIFA’s recent decision to over-rule UEFA came highly-qualified as the Kosovan team that takes the field cannot wear the country’s colours or other national symbols, play any other former members of Yugoslavia and must give FIFA 21 days’ notice of any proposed match.

After years of filibustering by UEFA, FIFA’s emergency committee made the ruling after a meeting chaired by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and including president of the Football Association of Serbia, Tomislav Karadzic, and Football Federation of Kosovo president Fadil Vokrri earlier this month.

“The decision taken by the FIFA Emergency Committee represents a major boost for football development in Kosovo and it once again confirms the extraordinary power of our sport to bring people together,” said Blatter.

But Rugova disagrees.

“No national anthem, No national colors and can't play neighbouring countries for the next two years, whatever that means,” says Rugova. “In a sense it's very disappointing news and it falls way short again, of a full membership with equal rights.

“FFK will have to except (sic) the news as a step in a right direction and continue on under FIFA's mercy.

“Players like [Lorik] Cana, [Shefki] Kuqi and many others will never get the opportunity to represent Kosovo in any official competition... another generation lost.

“Cana was 22 years old when I took over back in 2006 and will turn 31 this summer and in the sunset of his career. With the emergence of Xherdan Shaqiri, Adnan Januzaj and soon to be Sinan Bytyqi of Manchester City and many others hope rises again and hopefully they are the ones that get the opportunity.

“[But] Euro 2016 and the World Cup in Russia in 2018 will not include Kosovo in the qualifiers and here is why.

“Not being allowed to play friendlies versus the neighbouring countries for the next two years eliminates Euro 2016 and the close alliance of Serbia and Russia will never allow Kosovo as an independent country to participate in the qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

“FIFA and Sepp Blatter have the power to do the right thing but I'm certain it won’t have the will nor the guts to oppose Serbia, Russia and its allies. Back in 2008 I predicted that it will take 10 years before Kosovo is admitted in to FIFA. Now [it] looks like 15-20 years is a more realistic number, if that... unbelievable.”

Unbelieveable yes, but possibly all too believeable.