Kosovo

Kosova / Kosovë / Косово / Kosovo

  • Capital: Pristina
  • Official Languages: Albanian; Serbian
  • Nicknames: Dardanët (Dardanians)
  • Association: Federata e Futbollit e Kosovës (FFK)
  • FIFA Code: KVX

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
  • Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 114th (October 2019)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 97th (December 2017)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 190th (July-August 2016)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 126th (July 2019)
  • Most Capped Player: Amir Rrahmani – 34 caps [as of Dec 2020]
  • Top Scorer: Vedat Muriqi – 10 goals [as of Dec 2020]

The Republic of Kosovo are one of the newest nations in international football, having only joined FIFA as recently as 2016. Albeit its status is still considered as ‘disputed’ with half of the UN members recognising its sovereignty, it is considered an independent country in both FIFA and UEFA circles having declared its unilateral independence from its northern neighbour, Serbia, in 2008. Being the 7th nation to spring forth from the old Yugoslavia, the region is renowned for producing exceptionally talented players, and Kosovo are no exceptions in that detail.

Despite having a small population (and being the smallest in area size), Kosovo have effectively utilised the Kosovar Albanian diaspora dotted around the world to call-up numerous talented players into their national team, such as former Norwegian midfielder Valon Berisha, and Albanian goalkeeper Samir Ujkani. Therefore despite their size, Kosovo are considered one of the tougher of the ‘lower ranked sides’ in European football, having finished in third place in their Euro 2020 qualifying group, and agonisingly just missed out on qualifying for the 2020/2021 European Championship, getting knocked out in the UEFA Nations League playoffs by their neighbour North Macedonia.

To talk about one of the newest and exciting nations to play international football, we interviewed the absolutely excellent Dardanian Football. They run a brilliant Twitter account which focuses and reports on all things involving Kosovan leagues, the national team, Kosovan players playing abroad, and Kosovan football in general. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:

In addition, please check out their own version of the below interview. It’s absolutely superbly and artistically put together, so feast upon its incredible design (we love it!!):

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sD-Ck0gFrt7DTzjA0MuLlvz808RSQ7A5/view

Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Kosovo had and has a lot of great players, unfortunately most of the greatest players from Kosovo were never able to wear the Kosovo national team shirt. Starting from Riza Lushta and Naim Kryeziu, both players of Albania and players of famous Italian teams. Continuing with Agim Cana (father of Lorik Cana), Xhevat Prekazi and Fahrudin Jusufi (who won the gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics with Yugoslavia).

Albert Bunjaku

Still the best and the most important player for football in Kosovo remains Fadil Vokrri, an icon for football in Kosovo! As per manager, Albert Bunjaku/Bunjaki deservedly is the best and after the international recognition, creating the main structure (base) and brought together many high quality players from other national teams to Kosovo.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?

Fadil Vokrri

Fadil Vokrri of course. He was an idol for both old and new generations. Back in times where Kosovo was under Yugoslavia, Vokrri’s figure was an inspiration and hope for achieving big dreams. While for the new generation, he gave young footballers the opportunity for participating in international football while he was working as the President of FFK when we were accepted in FIFA & UEFA.

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Kosovo currently?

Milot Rashica

This is quite a big dilemma. Footballers but also fans don’t prefer to compare players with each other, we love all of them and we are always thankful to them for choosing Kosovo. But the most known player at international level is Milot Rashica [currently at Werder Bremen].

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

Very bad, things aren’t going in the way we predicted. Kosovo was badly affected by COVID-19. Empty stadiums, injuries and players not able to travel to Kosovo for the national matches due to COVID restrictions put Kosovo in a very uncomfortable situation. With only 1 win, 2 draws and 7 defeats in the last 10 matches Kosovo is having the worst performance since the World Cup qualifiers.

Q. Are there any Kosovan players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

Right-winger Edon Zhegrova

Well we got many of them who play for other national teams at youth ranks, mainly in Germany and Switzerland for the moment, the players that are part of our national team and are showing great potential are: Edon Zhegrova, Betim Fazliji few others in youth ranks are Dion Berisha, Altin Kryeziu and also few others that might switch for us like Fisnik Asllani, Andi Zeqiri, etc.

Q. Looking at Kosovo’s short international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?

From October 2017 until September 2019, Kosovo had a record of 15 unbeaten matches. During this period Kosovo played some amazing matches, including the 4-0 win against Azerbaijan, or the amazing comeback against Bulgaria. However, one of the best matches was, of course, Kosovo 2-1 Czech Republic. A brilliant comeback from Kosovo and an amazing game even though several important players were injured.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

The 1-2 defeat against North Macedonia might be the match where the team fell down to the lowest point. That defeat totally crushed all the progress made in UEFA Nations League and qualifiers.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Kosovo national team?

Best part is that Kosovar Albanians are everywhere and it does not matter wherever we play there is always going to be enough fans in the stands to cheer our name.

Worst things about being a Kosovo fan is the isolation and impossibility to be with the national team in away matches because of Visas. A bad thing about being a Kosovo fan is also the disrespect that you get from people that don’t respect Kosovo independence.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

Besa Besë! Totally Besa Besë! You can hear fans singing it in the streets and in the stadium. A powerful song that gives goosebumps to the fans and to the players.

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

Maybe we can say the special kit that was made for the match against England away, which in fact is also the best-selling jersey of Kosovo.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Kosovan national team?

New players from other national teams switching for Kosovo. A new strategy and a lot of hard work, so we can be able to have a strong and competitive team, and why not try to reach the qualification.

A massive faleminderit to the guys from the superb Dardanian Football for answering our questions on the Dardanët. Remember you can find their excellent account in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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