VALLETTA: Kosovo have moved within one step of joining the international football establishment at last writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The executive committee of European federation UEFA has decided that the breakaway former province of Serbia should be permitted to put its membership application to congress next spring.
This means its clubs would be eligible to compete in the European club competitions though the move appear too late for Kosovo to be admitted to the European phase of the 2018 World Cup qualifying competition for which the draw has already been made.
UEFA statutes insist that a member should be a member of the United Nations, a condition which Kosovo has yet to achieve in formal terms though it is recognised as an independent entity by the UN and by a majority of members of the European Union.
The Kosovo case was given a significant push forward in January 2014 when FIFA cleared its national team and clubs to play friendly matches without needing permission from the Serbs.
The move to bring Kosovo as far into the football family as possible had been pushed forcefully by FIFA president Sepp Blatter over the prevous two years in defiance of UEFA president Michel Platini and Serbia.
FIFA’s opening of the door ended a long-running stalemate in three-way talks chaired by FIFA and allows the Kosovars to play football within the same restrictions – no national symbols etc – adoped in political talks brokered by the European Union.
The latent talent of Kosovo football has been illustrated by the contribution of its ‘players in exile’ to the Swiss team who qualified for last year’s World Cup finals and the Swedish team who finished third in the last World Under-17 Cup.