Uncertainty accompanies Kosovo’s preparations for first competitive match


Kosovo are just hours away from playing their first competitive match, a World Cup qualifier in Finland. However, coach Albert Bunjaki is still waiting to find out whether some of his players will be eligible.

With just a few hours to go before Kosovo kick off their first competitive match since being recognized by FIFA, coach Bunjaki and his players waited in a hotel lobby for word about the status of several of the players that want to play for him.

On Monday afternoon, FIFA announced that it had approved the applications of two former Albania players, goalkeeper Samir Ujkani and midfielder Alban Meha, to play for Kosovo.

This came a few hours after football’s world governing body announced that it had approved similar applications submitted by Fanol Perdedaj, Bersant Celina, Hekuran Kryeziu, Albert Bunjaku, Enis Alushi, Sinan Bytyci, Vedat Muric, Erton Fejzullahu and Elbasan Rashani.

Four other players have requested clearance to play for Kosovo, but it isn’t clear whether FIFA will rule on their cases in time for the kick-off of Monday’s qualifier against Finland in Turku (20:45 CET).

Under FIFA’s rules, anyone who has played for another national team cannot switch allegiance unless they are given special permission by FIFA. Kosovo was admitted as a member of FIFA and UEFA this past May.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and it has been recognized by around 100 countries. It has not been recognized by Belgrade, which lost control over its Albanian-majority southern province during a 1999 NATO bombing campaign, which ended an inter-ethnic conflict. The territory was under United Nations administration for the years preceding its independence declaration.

pfd/jh (dpa, AFP, AP)