Kosovo, on Sunday, celebrates its fifth birthday, the anniversary of its declaration of independence from Serbia. Cue fireworks, champagne, balloons and, as is usually in these occasions, a celebratory football match.
Maybe Kosovo against a Former Yugoslavia Select. Maybe Sepp Blatter’s Green-for-Go XI against Michel Platini’s Red-for-No All-Stars; the one team chosen from European Union nations against the other picked from Serbia, Russia and its satellites.
OK, maybe this was thinking much too far outside the box. The reality is that representative match of any sort is out of the question despite appearances from FIFA late last year.
What Blatter gave with one hand he took away with the other and left the Kosovars, not only the football federation president but its prime minister, feeling betrayed. They have expressed their feelings in admirably polite letters to the world federation and its president.
For new readers: Kosovo’s independence has never been accepted by Serbia and Russia (which fears the encouragement that would its own belligerent regions) which have, with the acquiescence of friendly UEFA president Platini, blocked Kosovo’s attempts to play non-competitive football against the European and world mainstream.
Last spring Blatter, despite UEFA opposition, pushed open the FIFA door. But with conditions. And one of those conditions is that Serbia must approve any such friendly matches played in Kosovo.
This writer has approached the Serb federation on several occasions, asking its view and attitude.
The silence has been deafening.
That tells its own tale.
One of the other ‘modalities’ laid down by FIFA was a bar on displays of flags and/or symbols. That lags behind the political reality. Even in the initial and delicate political talks, Serbs and Kosovars have reached an agreement on Kosovar identification linguistics.
FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke confirmed that in a letter to FFK president Fadil Vokrri on December 12.
Vokrri replied a week later, indicating the FFK’s “total rejection of the unacceptable content” of Valcke’s missive and opposing the insistence on the need to “request a ‘prior authorisation’ from an external non-Kosovo entity [i.e., Serbia].”
Vokrri added: “This clause is an insult to an independent country recognised by 97 UN member states . . . It is an insult to the sufferings and persecution of the Kosovo football community [and a] negation of the fact that . . . in talks in Brussels under EU auspicies, Kosovo is treated as an independent state even in discussions with Serbia on bilaterial issues.”
Now Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has joined with a three-page letter of protest of his own to Blatter.
Thaci concludes: “The people of Kosovo have been waiting for so long in dignity and freedom and we know that the full inclusion of Kosovo in the world football community is inevitable.
“So we can still wait, if we have to!”
Serbia, Russia, Platini, UEFA and even – against their apparent better instincts last spring – Blatter and FIFA are demanding they do just that: wait.
Hence, no anniversary football match in Pristina on Sunday.