KEIR RADNEDGE in SALVADOR: Ex-Yugoslav striker Fadil Vokrri has appealed to FIFA this week “to offer fairness, hope and justice to the teams, clubs and players” of Kosovo.
Vokrri, is president of the Football Federation of the former Yugoslav state whose independence has been recognised by most of the European Union but not by European football’s governing body UEFA.
Hence Serbia, supported by Russia, has thrown up a series of obstacles in the way of Kosovar teams playing even ‘only’ friendly matches against sides from FIFA member associations.
The latent talent of Kosovo football has been illustrated by the contribution of its ‘players in exile’ to the Swiss team who qualified for next year’s World Cup finals and the Swedish team who finished third in the recent World Under-17 Cup.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter began pushing the Kosovar case in the spring of 2012 and has held a number of talks with both sports officials and politicians of both Kosovo and Serbia while the European Union has sought to broker agreements over acceptable statehood symbols which both sides accept.
The latter is known as the “asterisk” system and, with Kosovo on the FIFA exco agenda later this week, Vokrri has appealed to the FIFA exco for this formula to be enacted to help move the football debate along.
Vokrri sent his letter to all the exco members on the very day that Kosovo’s Sports Minister Memli Krasniqi was visiting Paris and meeting his French counterpart Valérie Fourneyron at the headquarters of the local football federation.
A spokesmam for the Kosovar federation described the meeting as “another example of the form of ‘schizophrenism’ existing in European football with 23 of the 28 EU countries having recognised Kosovo with associations such as the German DFB and the Swedish SVF having co-operation programs with the FFK.”
The appeal to Blatter
Vokrri, in his letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the executive committee, said:
“ln a few days, the FIFA Executive Committee will discuss one more time the situation of Kosovo football as it has been indicated at item 12.2 of the recently-released agenda of the Salvador de Bahia meeting.
“Since the May 2012 FIFA executive committee meeting in Budapest authorizing the FIFA member associations to have sporting contacts with the Football Federation of Kosovo, that decision has not been implemented yet because the attached modalities were considered inacceptable by our football community.
“Later, the FFK welcomed the mandate that you have received from the FIFA exco to propose alternative modalities and we felt encouraged by the meeting held on October 29 in Zurich under your chairmanship and with the presence of the leadership of the Serbia FA.
“It gives us the opportunity to stress the fact that the FFK is not asking for membership since we are fully aware of the discrepancies existing between the FIFA and UEFA statutes on affiliation.
“But the FFK is proposing that the modalities for the friendly matches would be similar to all other friendly match authorized under the principles and regulations of the FIFA statutes, including friendly matches for the ‘A’ selection of the best players of Kosovo.
“Regarding the issue of national symbols (flag, anthem, etc.) and as a proposal for compromise, the FFK offers to use the similar mechanism which was approved by the governments of Kosovo and Serbia under the EU umbrella, the so-called ‘asterisk’ system.
“This system has been used for nearly two years now without any incident in political and regional meetings where flags of the two countries end up being waved in the same rooms and at the same tables.
“Our position is clear: why refuse for football what is now accepted for political meetings? Why refuse for football what is now used by other sports such as judo?
“Allow us as well to remind everyone that the EU-brokered agreement between Kosovo and Serbia mentioned the fact that none of the two parties would block the ‘participation’ of the other one in international organizations. Why now prevent the mere organization of friendly matches for Kosovo?
“Finally, the situation of football in Kosovo, a country recognized by 105 countries, looks more unfair by the day in light of the situation of the FA of Gibraltar, a British territory without any international recognition, is playing today competitive football matches.
“The FFK and the whole football community of our country have trust in the wisdom of the FIFA executive committee whose members have one more time the opportunity to offer fairness, hope and justice to the teams, clubs and players of Kosovo whose talents have been so widely praised and acknowledged in the past international qualifiers to the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil.
Thanks in advance on their behalf — Fadil Vokrri, President FFK