PRISTINA: Kosovar officials have written in protest to FIFA about the blind eye which both the world federation and UEFA turned to last week’s Russian visa row over St Gallen’s Kristian Nushi writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
At a time when FIFA president Sepp Blatter is trying to persuade the Israeli authorities to ease restrictions on Palestinian sport the Kosovars were angry at such an apparent contradiction in attitude on his own doorstep.
Kosovo Football Federation president Fadil Vokrri copied his letter to UEFA president Michel Platini and to Jacques Rogge, head of the International Olympic Committee of which Blatter is a member.
He argued that the discrimination against Nushi contrasted poorly with UEFA’s action to prohibit the sacrifice of sheep by a Kazakh club before a Champions League tie. Sheepish concerns ranked above human rights, he noted.
Nushi, from Kosovo but a former Albanian international, was refused a Russian visa to play for St Gallen against Moscow Spartak in the Europa League. Rough justice prevailed when St Gallen won through to the group stage.
Kosovo has not yet been able, for political reasons, to gain membership of the international football community. However Nushi has lived and played in Swiss football for more than a decade and the situation regarding Kosovar exiles should be familiar to FIFA and UEFA since both are headquartered in Switzerland.
World Cup guarantees
The Russian action also made a nonsense of the reliability of the guarantees which Moscow has had to given concerning freedom of entry to all members of the ‘football family’ for the 2018 World Cup finals. In any case this year Blatter and FIFA have championed concerns over discrimination of all description.
The Nushi case was not the first such Kosovo visa issue this summer. Last month the Ukraine authorities refused travel permits to two Kosovar players of the Albanian club Kukesi ahead of a tie against Metalurh Donetsk. They circumvented the bar by taking Albanian citizenship.
Vokrri said: “This denial constitutes a clear violation of the universally respected sports principle of non-discrimination as enshrined in the Olympic Charter, the FIFA statutes and UEFA statutes.”
Football’s inaction contrasted poorly with the action taken in similar circumstances by governing bodies of table tennis, judo and handball.
Kosovo had hoped to progress towards an accord allowing its teams to play foreign sides but, despite promises of FIFA action, the issue has become bogged down amid the regional political standoff.