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FIFA is being petitioned by Kosovar-exile internationals not to back down on a pledge to offer one hand into the real football world to the orphan Balkan state.

Ten players – forced by realpolitik to line up for other nations – have put their names to an open letter being sent to FIFA president Sepp Blatter ahead of the world federation’s executive committee meeting in Zurich next week.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 after bitter years of secessionist warfare but has yet to obtain United Nations admission.

Without such status the Kosovo Football Federation (KFF) cannot join the European and world federations and the Serbs – with powerful friends in high places including Russia for its own political reasons – have sought to prevent Kosovar teams even playing occasional friendly matches against foreign opposition.

Early this year Blatter, irritated and impatient with UEFA intransigence, forced through the FIFA exco an acceptance for Kosovo teams to ‘come out.’ UEFA president Michel Platini has grudgingly accepted the order but the nuts and bolts of match organisations have yet to be agreed between FIFA, UEFA, Serbia and the Kosovars.

Hence the petition to FIFA, organised by KFF president Fadil Vokrri, the one-time Yugoslavia and Partizan Belgrade forward.

In a covering letter to Blatter and members of the FIFA exco, Vokrri hailed the ‘historical milestone’ of agreeing in principle to let Kosovo teams play international friendlies. He also offered the assurance that the KFF is not seeking to challenge UN-based membership regulations.

Vokrri acknowledged “the sensitive political environment” and insisted: “We are only claiming the right to play friendly matches with teams and clubs of the football associations which want to play with us, in particular from the countries which have so far recognised Kosovo as an independent state [a majority of the European Union – KR].”

Vokrri noted, in closing, that “our players are everywhere in the top European clubs and, as an example, [this month’s] FIFA World Cup qualifying match Switzerland-Albania . . . had nine players from Kosovo in the two starting elevens, three and six respectively.”

All nine have signed the petition along with German women’s international Fatmire ‘Lira’ Bajramaj who plays her club football with 1FFC Frankfurt.

The nine were headed by Xherdan Shaqiri who is the most outstanding young player in the Swiss national squad and was sold this summer to Bayern Munich. The other Switzerland co-signators were Valon Behrami (Napoli) and Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mg).

The six Albanian Kosovars were Lorik Cana (Lazio), Etrit Berisha (Kalmar), Armend Dallku (Vorsilla), Mergin Havrai (Furth), Alban Meha (Paderborn) and Samir Ujkami (Palermo).

By Keir Radnedge

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