For the Kosovo National football team the process of gaining admission to UEFA has been a long one. The country declared independence from Serbia in 2008, yet the Serbians dispute it. The football team, founded in 1993 after the break up of Yugoslavia, was prohibited from playing even friendly games against FIFA members the same year.
The reason behind this ban was that FIFA required all members to be “an independent state recognised by the international community”. FIFA lifted the ban in 2012 allowing Kosovo to play friendlies. Despite that, they were still unable to qualify for European Championships or World Cups.
Despite the permission to play friendly games, restrictions were tight. The team was not permitted to play friendlies against former Yugoslavian republics such as Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Further to that, neither the national team nor club sides could display any national symbols such as flags or emblems. They were also prohibited from playing the national anthem.
In 2015, Michel Platini announced that it was likely Kosovo would gain admission to UEFA in 2016. At the 2016 ordinary UEFA conference in Budapest, Kosovo gained acceptance into UEFA by a vote of 28-24. Admission into UEFA will likely pave the way for full membership of FIFA. FIFA’s congress convenes this Friday in Mexico where the possibility will be discussed.
Kosovo’s arrival to UEFA has given way to an unprecedented situation in world football. There are currently a number of players around the world with Kosovar Albanian origins playing for other nations. Former Sunderland defender, Lorik Cana, currently playing for Nantes, has earned 90 caps as an international playing for Albania. Stoke City midfielder, Xherdan Shaqiri was born Gjilan, Eastern Kosovo but has made 78 appearances for Switzerland both at senior and underage level.
Cana and Shaqiri were joined by fellow Kosovar players Granit Xhaka and Watford midfielder Valon Berahmi in writing an open letter to then FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The letter called for the inclusion of Kosovo among the ranks of UEFA and FIFA.
The letter was also signed by 8 other Albanian national team players, all of whom were of Kosovar origin. The extent of Kosovar players playing for other nations is remarkable. During a World Cup qualifying game between Albania and Switzerland in 2012, over half of the 22 players involved were either born in Kosovo or could trace their origins there.
Should they be granted admission to FIFA, there is a good chance that players such as Shaqiri and Cana will be permitted to switch teams. Speaking to BBC, former Crystal Palace striker Shekfi Kuqi said that the choice to switch would not be easy.
“Those players playing for Switzerland have been in World Cups and European Championships.
“It’s not easy to turn your back. It’s a personal view.
“Some might like to play for Kosovo and some would probably like to carry on as they are.” via BBC
Watford’s Berahmi has already ruled himself out of a switch. The midfielder believes that the establishment of the national team is for the next generation of players. Should FIFA admit Kosovo into its ranks, the Kosovar national team will compete to qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.