Keir RadnedgeIn October 2005 Michel Platini, on behalf of the French government and its then President Jacques Chirac, presented the Legion d’Honneur to his old Saint-Etienne team-mate Ivan Curkovic.

The ‘National Order of the Legion of Honour’ was created by Napoleon in 1802 and is the country’s highest decoration, albeit split into five levels. Foreigners are awarded a ‘distinction’ and this is the rank held by Curkovic since he is a Serb.

In fact, he is a significantly important Serb. Now 67, Curkovic played 19 times in goal for the former Yugoslavia between 1963 and 1970. After starting with home-town Velez Mostar he starred at army club Partizan Belgrade and then, between 1972 and 1981, with Saint-Etienne.

This was the greatest era in the history of Les Verts. They won four league titles, three French cups and were runners-up to Bayern Munich in the 1976 European Champions Cup Final.

Curkovic was a senior, influential figure within not only the team but the club. Hence it was no surprise that, on retiring and returning home, he raced up the administrative ladder to become president of Partizan then president of Serb Olympic Committee and a vice-president of the national football federation.

Another former Partizan star who has risen to power, albeit in a different context, is Fadil Vokrri.

He played for the club in the late 1980s, two decades after Curkovic. Vokrri was also then only player from Kosovo, to the south, to play national team footballer for the old Yugoslavia.

Sadly, such is the complication of life in the Balkans, that two men with career steps in common, find themselves apparently in opposition.

Events of the 1990s left Yugoslavia in fragments. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia have all gone their own independent ways. Only Kosovo remains in limbo: recognised by more than 90 nations but not yet by the United Nations and hence not as potential membership material by UEFA and FIFA.

Vokrri and his federation know they must wait on political solutions. In the meantime they have written repeatedly to UEFA and FIFA seeking permission for club and representative teams to be allowed to play friendly games against member nations.

The latest request was considered by FIFA’s executive committee two weeks ago. But the exco was more concerned with the 2014 World Cup razzmatazz and president Sepp Blatter’s reform proposals.

Two days later Vokrri was informed by secretary-general Jerome Valcke that the request had been discussed by the FIFA Associations Committee and then by the exco and rejected . . . “on the recommendations of the UEFA executive committee.”

No reason was given. Privately, the Kosovars suspect that Curkovic has too much influence over the old team-mate who once presented him with the Legion d’Honneur.

This writer did raise all these issues with UEFA. The media department kindly pointed me to FIFA’s own statutes prohibiting matches against non-members.

Not so much a football game, more a circle game.

By Keir Radnedge

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  • Kosovo

    Kosovo is a new state and it should recognised by fifa uefa and all interational community

  • Adriatik Kelmendi

    Dave Vipul, I must say you have 0 (read: zero) clue about Kosovo, and the flooding the area of Albanians. The now territory of Serbia, used to be Illyrians, wordl wide known as the ancestors of the now Albanians, which live in the “flooded countries” as you claim. You should also know, that the now serbians, came from through Carpatians, and occupied the Illyrians country. So much of the history for you.
    The “flooded country” of you, has declared its depenedence three years ago, and is recognized by almost 90 countries around the world, including USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy, and many more. You should know the facts, when you comment on issues you barely know, cuz, you might really find yourself on the other side of this story, like the author has written.

    Best of Regards

  • Kosovo was occupied by Serbia

    This is blackmail by Platini! Sport should be kept separate from politics, something Platini must understand, or resign from his post for his biased views.

  • Kosovo was occupied by Serbia

    History, for the Serbs, started in the early 7th century, when they settled in the Balkans. Their power base was outside Kosovo, which they fully conquered in the early 13th, so the claim that Kosovo was the “cradle” of the Serbs is untrue.

    What is true is that they ruled Kosovo for about 250 years, until the final Ottoman takeover in the mid-15th century. Churches and monasteries remain from that period, but there is no more continuity between the medieval Serbian state and today’s Serbia than there is between the Byzantine Empire and Greece.

    Kosovo remained Ottoman territory until it was conquered by Serbian forces in 1912. Serbs would say “liberated”; but even their own estimates put the Orthodox Serb population at less than 25%. The majority population was Albanian, and did not welcome Serb rule, so “conquered” seems the right word.

    But legally, Kosovo was not incorporated into the Serbian kingdom in 1912; it remained occupied territory until some time after 1918. Then, finally, it was incorporated, not into a Serbian state, but into a Yugoslav one. And with one big interruption (the second world war) it remained part of some sort of Yugoslav state until June 2006.

    Until the destruction of the old federal Yugoslavia by Milosevic, Kosovo had a dual status. It was called a part of Serbia; but it was also called a unit of the federation. In all practical ways, the latter sense prevailed: Kosovo had its own parliament and government, and was directly represented at the federal level, alongside Serbia. It was, in fact, one of the eight units of the federal system.

    Almost all the other units have now become independent states. Historically, the independence of Kosovo just completes that process. Therefore, Kosovo has become an ex-Yugoslav state, as any historian could tell you.

  • Fatmir Koraqi

    Kosova is a indipendent country and recognised by all DEMOCRATIC countries in the world. And for those who are interested in politics, Kosovo has always had a majority albanian population,(it is known fact that serbs and other sllavic nations came to balkans in the 7th century, where the albanians lived since the world exists).It will be no long untill the FIFA and UEFA cleptocrats are forced to allow 2 mil. kosovans to join the football family.

  • Benjamin

    Its a shame that FIFA allows itself to be influenced by politics. Kosovo should be allowed to play football,and FIFA should realise that it can’t turn back the clocks! Sooner or later it has too accept Kosovo as a member. For the sake of football and all those young eager and unknown players, it must take the decision now.

  • Vipul Dave

    Kosovo should no be recognised by the international community. It is an illegal state created from Serbian ancient land. The albanians have floode the area and now claim it as their own. Not right.