Kosovo turns eight yet the UEFA/FIFA decision remains on hold

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Photo: Agron Berisha, FFK.

On February 17th, 2016 Kosovo turns eight years old as an independent state and yet the football national teams aren’t allowed to play anything but friendly games under certain rules. This was decided two years ago UEFA/FIFA gave Kosovo the green light to do so and they made their official friendly debut against Haiti on March 5th 2014. The game ended 0-0.

  • Kosovo cannot play against former Yugoslavian countries
  • No national anthem can be played
  • No flag of Kosovo on the arena nor on the shirt
  • Behind the shirt there must be a star after ‘Kosovo’

Since that OK from UEFA/FIFA following Kosovo friendlies has included games against Turkey (1-6), Senegal (1-3), Oman (1-0), Equatorial Guinea (2-0) and Albania (2-2) but also games against teams at club level. Turkey have been very helpful and even invited our U21 team to take place in a tournament held in Antalyaspor just recently. Well there they played teams such as Albania (1-1), Bahrain (0-0), Saudi Arabia (0-0), and Ukraine (0-2). Azerbaijan withdrew so Kosovo played a game against Iran’s U19 which ended in another 0-2 loss.

On the women’s side they have been busy too. Just last week the Prishtina team KF Kosovo’s women took over the baton and travelled to Turkey. Well there they played 1-1 against Antalyaspor’s women and Danish team BSF but also managed to crush Swiss team Niederamt (7-0). A part of women’s national team took place in a German tournament last summer where they beat England in the final (4-1). The first team played Albania’s women not long ago and on Kosovo’s Independence Day, February 17th, the two nations will play once again at Elbasan Arena.

So while waiting for a full membership our boys and girl have been keeping busy.  During this time several of our others sport organizations have had more success. FIBA accepted Kosovo’s basketball federation almost a year ago at the same time as Tennis Europe did. EHF welcomed Kosovo’s handball (2014) and even let them arrange a tournament for the developing countries.  In 2012 Kosovo was even included in the International Sailing Federation which is ironic considering the fact that Kosovo doesn’t even have e coast! The list goes on but UEFA/FIFA cannot be found on the list.

Kosovo may be a small country but it’s a nation which has brought up many talented football players and there have been many times where we’ve all joked about them being Kosovo’s biggest export merchandise. Kosovo is a national that just wants to play, just like any other team and the question isn’t if but more like when?

The next meeting is going to be held later this month in Zürich where the president of Kosovo’s football federation Fadil Vokrri alongside the general secretary Eroll Salihu have been invited to participate in a congress.

Albania announces Euro Cup residency 

The slogan “Me plis per Paris” has been used by Albanians a lot during the last year however our national team are not going to stay there. The Albanian Football Federation announced the residency earlier today and the chosen luxury hotel is the Hotel L’Agapa in Perros-Guirec. The players will be checking in on June 5th and out on June 23rd. Even if they will play their first game against Switzerland on June 11th the official rule book says that players must be in the hosting nation at least five days prior to the official kick off.

The Perros-Guirec commune is a very small one based north west of France or “At the heart of the Pink Granite Coast and facing the Seven Islands Archipelago” as they write on their website. It is around a five hour drive to reach Paris. That’s why Albania has chosen another three hotels in Lens (against Switzerland), Marseille (France) and Romania so they can stay there the day before game day.

For pictures you can visit L’Agapa’s website by simply clicking here.

Official: Albania’s new kits revealed

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Photo by:  Macron’s website

Bye Adidas and hello Macron. Today Macron announced their collaboration with Albania’s Football Federation and will dress us for our first Euro Cup ever. The Italian based company Macron will dress the red and blacks until 2021 and also have a sponsor deal with Etrit Berisha’s team Lazio among others.

On the picture above you can see the new kits and the red one is of course the home kit, the white is for away game while the black one is the third kit. Apart from the low key big eagle on the torso and the Albanian logo on the chest, closer to the heart, the jersey also features a text on the Korean styled collar which says ‘Ti Shqiperi më jep nder’ on the side closer to the neck, and skin of course, and ‘Albania’ with a two-headed eagle on the back of the collar for the world to see.

Now our boys will be dressed to impress.

Albania celebrates its first female assistant referee acknowledged by FIFA

 

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Picture from FSHF.org.

 

Fatjona Borova, aged 23 just recently received her FIFA badge which means she’s now listed as a FIFA assistant referee. This actually means that she’s the first female one from Albania. Apart from her Albania has three male main referees acknowledged by FIFA; Lorenc Jemini, Enea Jorgji and Bardhyl Pashaj plus another six male ones as assistant referees; Rejdi Avdo, Ermal Barushi, Ridiger Cokaj, Egin Doda, Denis Rexha and Ilir Tartaraj and yet another one as a Futsal referee: Kreshnik Hakrama but amongst these names there’s only one female, Fatjona Borovoa who also is the youngest of the bunch.

Miss Borova was born in Shkodër in 1992, a city which has raised several of our Albanian football players. As a ‘Shkodrane’ of course football was played in her younger days and she even started played basketball too which she did for several years. She made it to the police academy  but can now put FIFA assistant referee in the resume as well.

She was one of the first women in Albania to referee in the domestic league, not only in women’s football but in the male department as well. A job she often shared with Krista Gjyli. And these two women became historical during the Albanian Super Cup on May 4th 2013 as they both were selected as assistant referees alongside Edvin Hoxha. And the year after this female Albanian duo once again collaborated during an U19 group stage qualification which was hosted in Albania.

I was quite emotional during the simple ceremony earlier his week when the general secretary of Albania’s Football Federation Ilir Shulku handed over the FIFA referee badge to Fatjona Borova, the first female one from Albania.

One nation, two countries and millions of emotions

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Picture taken during the Kosovo – Haiti game March 2014. Photographer: Agron Berisha for FFK.

One team is preparing for the Euro Cup while the other one has yet to even become a members of UEFA & FIFA. On Friday the 13th these two teams are going to clash and it is not just any other game. Albania will take on Kosovo at Prishtina Stadium in Kosovo’s capital, a game that has divided the Albanian people.

The word brotherly has been used instead of a friendly as Kosovo is Albania’s little brother according to some. Albania’s Herolind Shala being one of them. These are the people you will see holding one Albanian flag in one hand and Kosovo’s flag in the other. Win or loss, it is a game where both sides are winners in this giant fest.

“We are one”. Several people, even to this day, have praised Greater Albania and even if Kosovo is an independent state they wish for Kosovo to join Albania and form ‘The United States of Albania’. These are the people mocking the Kosovo flag and the ones that will either boycott the game by not showing up or will show up to show their disaffection towards Kosovo.

Then we have the neutral ones, the ones that are just up for a big event that is going to take place. I mean, how often do you get to attend a game in a stadium where everyone speaks the same language? The city of Prishtina has been filled with flags advertising the game to welcome their fellow ‘opponents’ and the game is now only a day away.

11 of the 25 names on Albania’s rooster are players who have their roots in Kosovo and will play on their well let’s call it home turf. Etrit Berisha, Arlind Ajeti, Lorik Cana, Frederic Veseli, Amir Rrahmani, Amir Abrashi, Migjen Basha, Ermir Lenjani, Shkelzen Gashi, Taulant Xhaka and Herolind Shala. Keeper Etrit Berisha has even played for Kosovo’s NT at one point before becoming Albania’s first choice.

Taking on their former team-mates. While on Kosovo’s side former Albanian NT player Samir Ujkani, who currently plays for Genoa will take on his former team-mates. Mersin’s defender Loret Sadiku & Gefle’s defender Ilir Berisha have both also represented Albania, even though it was a very brief stay.

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Keep an eye on Manchester City’s Bersant Celina! Photographer: Agron Berisha for FFK.

Albania’s team are taking the short bus trip to Kosovo with a much heavier and stable squad who managed to get their first ticket ever to a Euro Cup just last month. Then we have Kosovo, a newly founded organization and team with several young players. For example Manchester City’s Bersant Celina and FSV Frankfurt’s Besar Halimi to name a few. It is a team who can develop for the better and who are still hoping to play more than just friendlies. But now they have some tough Euro Cup participants to face like tomorrow’s antagonists, well only for the 90 minutes.

About a nation and their first Euro Cup ticket

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Picture from Shkelzen Gashi’s instagram account.

On October 11th 2015 history was written as Albania’s National Team managed to qualify for the Euro Cup that is held in France next summer. This is the first time the Red & Blacks have ever participated in a major tournament like this.

It was all down to the final game. Albania were lined up away against Armenia in the final round and needed a win in order for them to get the golden ticket. Albanians all over the world sat down in front of their TV biting their nails, and so did the Danes. Denmark needed Armenia to win since they already had the second place secured and were hoping for Albania to lose.

Captain Lorik Cana and his 10 men had the entire nation on their shoulders as they walked out to the pitch in Yerevan. 90 minutes was going to be played and it was no time for mistakes. The opponents booed Albania but the boys sang the Albanian national anthem louder than they ever had.

Nine minutes, it only took nine minutes to break the dead lock. An own goal by the Armenian defender Kamo Hovhannisyan gave Albania an early 1-0 lead and 15 minutes later Berat Xhimshiti filled in Albania’s goal sheet with a second goal. So with a 2-0 result on the scoreboard the Polish referee sent off the two teams for a much needed half time break.

The final 45 minutes. During the second half everyone were on pins and needles. Some started to call their friends so that they could meet up and start celebrating while others remained seated just waiting for the final whistle to be blown.

Substitute Armando Sadiku was sent in after an hour of play time and the FC Zürich player made sure to set the final result to 3-0 in the 76th minute. The last quarter was watched standing as everyone, from player to viewers at home, waited to scream that final scream of joy.

“ALBANIA TO THE EURO CUP!” Was said by the English commentator and every Albanian player and staff members ran on to the pitch to hug each other. Everyone had tears in their eyes and the entire arena was filled with utter euphoria, even though they were miles away from home. “We made it”. 

The Italian man who went to Albania. Even if the ingredients are Albanian we must not forget the chef who made it happen. Coach Gianni De Biasi did something no man in Albania has ever done, he got them their first ticket to the Euro Cup. A man that is now being hailed as a God in Albania and he has even been given the name ‘Gani Abazi’, the Albanian version of his name.

A nation that has struggled to attract players. Albania is rarely a first option for Albanian players and the team often struggles to attract players which has affected it’s success. Most of the players go for Switzerland and just during this week around 20 Albanian players were found representing other nations than Albania. However this time they can prove everyone wrong and show them that yes, Albania can reach a championship.

Two brothers in two different nations. This means that the two Xhaka brothers, Granit Xhaka and Taulant Xhaka will see each other in France next summer but are representing to different nations. Granit for Switzerland and Taulant for Albania. They have actually played against each other earlier since the two nations ended up in the same group last qualification and this time it is once again going to be emotional for the entire Xhaka family.

Serbia’s win against Albania. The fact that Serbia managed to beat Albania at Elbasan Arena just days ago has ended up in the shadow. Something so upsetting to many is now replaced with joy and even if Serbia won it is Albania that is going to France.

Have Albania won the Euro Cup?” People were puzzled and wondered if Albania had won due to the celebrations that were held all over the world. The view of red and black Albanian flags were shown in all major cities, the ground shaking from Albanian ‘valle’ being danced and the echo of “Xhamadani vija vija” is heard even with the windows closed.

#UneBesoj is now #UneBesova. Une besoj (translation: I believe) was the motto during the Qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but Albania failed to advance after finishing second from the bottom, this time they finished second from the top and Une besoj is being transformed to Une Besova, I believed, so now it’s off to France with a plis on everyone’s head!

Congratulations Albania! 

How Albania could’ve had a second National Team in this Euro Cup qualification 

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The Albanian National Team is one step away from getting a golden ticket to the Euro Cup in France. If they manage to beat Armenia on Sunday the Red and Blacks are writing history as this could be their first participation in a big international  tournament like this.

However they aren’t the only Albanians playing in this qualification. While looking at the other results from around Europe I came across some interesting fact. Did you know that this week we had 15 Albanians representing other nations?

  • Switzerland [5]: The Swiss NT called up five Albanians for their game against San Marino and they helped Switzerland clinch a Euro Cup spot. Blerim Dzemaili (Genoa), Granit Xhaka(Borussia Mönchengladbach), Pajtim Kasami (Olympiakos), Admir Mehmedi (Bayer Leverkusen) and Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) where all on board Vladimir Petkovic’s rooster. Shaqiri has scored four out of Switzerland’s 23 goals while Dzemaili, Xhaka, Kasami and Mehmedi have all one goal each noted.
  • Macedonia [5]: Our Balkan neighbors also had five Albanians among their list but the Macedonians did not manage to advance after being beaten by Ukraine. Armend Alimi (Shkendija), Besart Abdurahimi (Lokeren), Agim Ibraimi (Maribor), Ferhan Hasani (Shkendija) and Leonard Zhuta (Rijeka) are the five Albanians in their squad. Ibraimi and Abdurahimi have scored one goal each in the qualification.
  • Finland [2]: Finland called up both Perparim Hetemaj (Chievo) and Berat Sadik (Krylya Sovetov) to the game against Romania that ended in a 1-1 draw. Finland are already out but will face Northern Ireland in the last game, a team which Sadik scored against last time they played.
  • Denmark [1] : The Danes where impressed by Riza Durmisi’s (Bröndby) performance against Albania so he got to play form start against Portugal on Thursday. Denmark already have a playoffspot but they could get a Euro Cup ticket instead if Armenia beat Albania.
  • Montenegro [1]: Dinamo Minsk’s Fatos Beciraj scored in Montenegro’s 2-3 loss against Austria last night. This was his second goal in the tournament. Montenegro are already out but will face Russia in the final round.
  • Germany [1]: With Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia) on the bench the current World Cup winner where beaten by Ireland. Germany only need to beat Georgia in the final round to go through as group winners.

However, this number could’ve easily have been 20. Valon Behrami (Watford) was left out of Switzerland’s squad), Adnan Januzaj (Borussia Dortmund) has chosen to represent Belgium, the Berisha brothers Valon (Salzburg) & Veton (Greuther Fürth) who will represent Norway today) and finally Arijan Ademi (Dinamo Zagreb) who well we can rule out for now. Earlier this week it was revealed that the Macedonian NT player has been tested positive for doping while playing for Zagreb.

So there you have it, we know that Albanians can be found not only in the teams at club level all over the world but also in other national teams. Specially in the two dominating national teams like Switzerland and Macedonia. And now you know that they are so many of them that they can create their own national team. Albania 2.0.