Sixteen players get FIFA green light for Kosovo

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Zurich—FIFA on Monday approved 16 foreign-based footballers to represent Kosovo just hours ahead of the their first competitive match in a World Cup qualifier against Finland.
Kosovo became the 210th member of FIFA in May, but the Balkans outfit’s historic match has been marred by questions over who will be allowed to play for the team.
According to FIFA’s rules, someone who has played for another national team cannot normally switch allegiance. A number of Kosovo’s potential players applied individually for special permission.
FIFA said it had approved applications from 15 players who had previously turned out for other countries including seven who had played for Albania: Samir Ujkani, Alban Meha, Milot Rashica, Amir Rrahmani, Imran Bunjaku, Herolind Shala and Vedat Murig.
The eight others comprised Albert Bunjaku, a member of Switzerland’s squad at the 2010 World Cup, Fanol Perdedaj and Enis Alushi (Germany), Bersant Celina, Elbasan Rashani and Valon Berisha (Norway), Hekuran Kryeziu (Switzerland), Sinan Bytygi (Austria) and Erton Fejzullahu (Sweden).
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. About 100 countries recognise it as a state now, but major countries like Russia do not.
Serbia vehemently opposed Kosovo’s admittance to world governing body FIFA, which came soon after Europe’s governing body UEFA narrowly approved their membership.
A total of 24 players with roots in Kosovo currently play for six other national teams.
Most play for Albania, who are mourning the decision of four players so far from their European Championships squad earlier this summer to play for Kosovo.
Others include Belgium’s Adnan Januzaj, Finland’s Perparim Hetemaj and Sweden’s Arber Zeneli, who all await the green light from FIFA, a spokesman saying Monday that one further case was pending.—AFP

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