Kosovo don't know who they can field in debut

PRISTINA • Kosovo will make history today when they play their first competitive match in a World Cup qualifier against Finland.

However, excitement ahead of the Balkan nation's historic match has been marred by questions over who will be allowed to play for the team.

According to Fifa's rules, a player who has featured for another national team cannot switch allegiance, but a few potential Kosovo players are still awaiting results after they applied for special permission.

"It is unprecedented as they played for other national teams while Kosovo was not a member of Fifa. Now they should be given this opportunity like everyone else," the head of Kosovo's football association Fadil Vokrri said. "Fifa should allow a one-off exemption for Kosovo."

Kosovo became Fifa's 210th member in May.

A Fifa spokesman said the applications "are currently pending and being investigated" but he could not give indicate how long the decision process would take.

Twenty-four players with roots in Kosovo currently play for six other national teams, chiefly Albania.

Among them are Belgium's Adnan Januzaj, Finland's Perparim Hetemaj, Sweden's Arber Zeneli and Switzerland's Granit Xhaka - who all await the green light from Fifa.

Head coach Albert Bunjaki has had to operate with two lists of footballers - 15 who can definitely play and 11 awaiting permission.

Despite the complications, he remained upbeat, saying: "This is just the beginning of the project of creating a good team for the next European Championships."

Bajram Jashanica, a defender who his debut for Kosovo in a friendly against Turkey, said the long wait for today's match is motivating the team.

"Emotions are running high around us," he said. "We have to overcome them in order to achieve a good result. We are ready and we can make it,"

Along with Finland, Kosovo will face Croatia, Turkey, Iceland and Ukraine in World Cup qualifying.

As they do not yet have a stadium that meets international standards, Kosovo will play the opening home qualifier against Croatia on Oct 6 in the Albanian city of Shkodra.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Kosovo don't know who they can field in debut'. Print Edition | Subscribe