Outsider status does not mean such dots on the map should be denied assistance by the game’s governing bodies; indeed, generally they need more help than all those safely gathered in.
One such glaring case is Kosovo.
That the football establishment disdains the place may be a surprise considering the media imagery generated over the past two decades during the tragically painful fragmentation of Tito’s old but ultimately impossible Yugoslavia.
Kosovo is the ethnically Albanian-dominated region still trying to cut all its ties with Serbia to the north. Trouble is that Serbia does not want to let go. So Russia refuses the recognition which would open the way to Kosovo’s admission to the United Nations.
Without the stamp of UN approval Kosovo cannot gain recognition by FIFA and UEFA (anomalies such as the British home countries, Hong Kong, the Faroes, etc, were all achieved before UN-recognition clauses were adopted into their respective statutes).
Kosovo is desperately poor but the football federation, led by former Partizan Belgrade forward Fadil Vokkri, does its best to administer a league structure. The FFK also runs a national team, most of whose players live and play their club football in Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia.
What infuriates Vokkri is that, despite repeated personal appeals, FIFA and UEFA block attempts for his national and club teams to play occasional friendly matches against foreign opposition.
Just lately comes another refusal, concerning a proposed friendly between Kosovo champions FK Hysi and Swiss club Servette. The Swiss federation said ‘No’ on the grounds that Kosovo is not a member of the FIFA family; UEFA, insultingly and ignorantly, even apparently still believes Kosovo should come under Serb federation jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, as the Kosovars note in frustration, it’s OK with FIFA and UEFA for representative Catalonia and Vizacaya ‘national teams’ from within Spain to play friendly matches.
Before the tension-filled FIFA election congress earlier this year there was no way Kosovo could gain favourable consideration; too much political angst filled the air.
Now, however, this has all changed. FIFA is moving on.
The political scenario is evolving too. Croatia has effectively recognised Kosovo and a border controls deal with Serbia is close. Serbia knows it will not be admitted to the European Union until it has recognised Kosovo; and when Serbia can fall in line so can Russia and then so can the United Nations.
In the meantime FIFA and UEFA can do much, much more with a tiny slice of all their World Cup and Champions League millions to help football in Kosovo; in helping football they would help sport there in general.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter – and, to a lesser extent UEFA leader Michel Platini – talk constantly about football as a force for social change. Here is a perfect opportunity . . . and it’s right on their European doorstep.