Football

FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Kosovo's rocky road to the global stage

By George Ramsay, CNN

Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT) October 4, 2016
Share
kosovo teasekosovo tease
1 of 16
Kosovo and football ... it's complicated. ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Kosovo marked its first competitive fixture on September 5, 2016 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Finland. JUSSI NUKARI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Almost 10,000 fans were present to witness history at Turku's Veritas Stadion, as the match ended 1-1. JUSSI NUKARI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Defender Paulus Arajuuri opened the scoring for Finland after 18 minutes. JUSSI NUKARI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Valon Berisha, who found out he was eligible to switch allegiance from Norway to Kosovo only hours before the game, scored the equalizer from the penalty spot after an hour. JUSSI NUKARI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Kosovo will have to play all its "home" matches in the Albanian city of Shkoder until the facilities in its capital Pristina meet the necessary FIFA regulations. JUSSI NUKARI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
In Kosovo, sport has become entangled in its political past. In 2008, it declared independence from Serbia, which still does not recognize it as a country -- nor does Russia or several EU members such as Spain -- but over 100 nations including the US have accepted it. Laura Lezza/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
In 2009, UEFA president Michel Platini announced Kosovo could not become a member of European football's governing body until it had been accepted as a part of the United Nations. ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
After years of toil, Kosovo's national side was finally admitted into UEFA and world body FIFA in May 2016, despite opposition from Belgrade. ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The nation's quest for identity is exemplified by the Xhaka family. Born to Kosovan-Albanian parents, brothers Granit and Taulant competed against each other at the 2016 European Championships -- the former for Switzerland, the latter for Albania. DENIS CHARLET/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Albania's qualification for Euro 2016 was popular with fans in Kosovo. Here young boys watch the match against Switzerland on a big screen in the capital Pristina. ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images/file
Kosovo's first international match was held in 2014, a friendly against Haiti which ended in a goalless draw. ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
For the team's fans, the match against Haiti represented political and sporting liberation. Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images
Having celebrated joining FIFA, Kosovo is attempting to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. As well as Finland, its group opponents include Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine and Iceland. ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Finland's Kosovo-born midfielder Perparim Hetemaj decided not to play in the opening World Cup qualifier between the two countries. However, his adopted nation said he would not be switching allegiance. Marco Luzzani/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Just hours before the match against Finland, FIFA gave former Albania international goalkeeper Samir Ujkani permission to play for Kosovo. Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images