KEIR RADNEDGE in Budapest: Serb politicians and football officials can forget any hopes of FIFA backtracking on its decision to permit Kosovo teams to play international friendly matches at last.

President Sepp Blatter confirmed after the world federation’s annual congress here in the Hungarian capital that Kosovar football can indeed look ahead to a significant step forward.

Last Monday Blatter pushed through his executive – despite the disapproving abstentions of all eight European representatives – permission for the Kosovo representative team and its clubs to play friendly matches against FIFA members.

This infuriated the Serbs and their Russian political puppet-masters. They have never accepted Kosovo’s secessionist declaration of independence in 2008.

Impoverished Kosovo, though oddly in the Eurozone, remains an orphan state. It is recognised by more than 90 nations, including almost all the members of the European Union, but has yet to gain enough support for recognition by the United Nations.

Without the latter it cannot claim a right to apply for membership of UEFA. Hence president Michel Platini and his European federation – under pressure from Belgrade – has refused persistently to allow the Kosovars to play even friendly matches.

Blatter finally lost patience on Monday and had the exco overrule UEFA. The Serbian federation reacted angrily. FIFA prompted Kosovar consternation by announcing that all parties would be summoned to a meeting in Zurich later this month with a further decision to be taken by the exco’s next meeting on June 29.

Blatter told this writer, however, that the only “decisions” for the exco concerned the technicalities of Kosovar matches. He insisted that the decision was based on Article 29 of the FIFA statutes which is about friendly matches and “nothing to do with the admission of members.”

Spain, for example, is worried about any decision which might have a bearing on Gibraltar’s bid for UEFA membership.

He said: “We just put it on hold until we have fixed the modalities about how FIFA associations can play aganst Kosovo teams. The decision has not been put in question; it’s just details about whether they can play home matches or outside and how it should be done.

“That is why we have agreed to meet the football federation of Serbia before implementing the decision on June 29. But the basis of the decision is not changed.”


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