Kosovo on Monday had six of their squad cleared to play by world football body FIFA on the day of the country’s first competitive match.
The Balkan territory, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, became a FIFA member in May, promoting some Kosovans, who have played for other nations, to ask to change teams.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Kosovo start their FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification campaign with a game in Finland on Monday.
The qualifying group also includes Croatia, Iceland, Turkey and Ukraine.
The six players cleared are:
• Amir Rrahmani — a 22-year-old centre-back with one cap for Albania.
• Valon Berisha — a 23-year-old midfielder with 19 caps for Norway.
• Alban Meha — a 30-year-old midfielder with seven caps for Albania.
• Herolind Shala — a 24-year-old midfielder with five caps for Albania.
• Milot Rashica — a 20-year-old midfielder with two caps for Albania.
• Samir Ujkani — a 28-year-old goalkeeper with 20 caps for Albania.
Kosovo’s complicated political status has seen several players born there play for different countries, including Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka (Switzerland), Shefki Kuqi (Finland) and Lorik Cana (Albania).
When Kosovo’s FIFA membership was secured, football’s world governing body indicated it would deal with players wanting to switch nations on a case-by-case basis.
Arsenal midfielder Xhaka published an open letter on Tuesday in which he said he would continue to play for Switzerland.
In it, he claimed FIFA had said players who featured at Euro 2016 would not be allowed to switch nations.
Xhaka played in all of Switzerland’s matches — including their opening game against Albania, for whom his older brother Taulant plays.
FIFA has already allowed Alberto Bunjaku, who appeared for Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup, to play for Kosovo.
The Swiss football federation (SFV) has complained about “a lack of clarity in regulations’’.
“The SFV regrets (that) the priority of the Kosovar directors has been in trying to recruit players for the next World Cup qualifiers, instead of consolidating the foundations of their federation,” a statement added.(NAN)
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