Kosovo make their point on international football stage

Belgrade, Sept. 6,
(GNA/dpa) – Celebrations went on late into the night in Pristina after Kosovo
made a successful debut on the international football stage.

President Hashim
Thaci hailed the country’s “new heroes” after a first point gained in
a competitive international match in a 1-1 draw in Finland in World Cup
qualifiers.

On the streets and
in bars, people rejoiced in the troubled region on the Kosovo’s immediate
impact. “You are the best,” Thaci said.

Many newspapers on
Tuesday printed pictures from the dressing room of the happy players from the
fledgling football nation.

“Generations
of players feel so proud after decades of isolation. And the best of our
country is yet to come!” Thaci wrote on Twitter.

Kosovo had been
working towards this since even before their declaration of independence from
Serbia in 2008. The mostly Albanian former province was accepted only on May 13
as 210th member of football’s world governing body, enabling it to start the
2018 World Cup qualifiers in Group I.

Prime Minister Isa
Mustafa for one is convinced it was the right decision and one which enriches
international football.

“We have
proven ourselves as a valuable team in international competitions,” he
said.

Hero of the night
was Valon Berisha, who with his goal from the penalty spot in the 60th
minute equalized Paulus Arajuuri’s opening goal for Finland in Turku.

“It’s a very
good feeling. I’ve dreamed of scoring a goal for Kosovo,” the 23-year-old
RB Salzburg midfielder said.

Until a few hours
before kick-off it was not clear whether the Kosovo’s first scorer in a
competitive match would even be allowed to play.

Like many of his
team-mates, Berisha, who also has Norwegian citizenship and played for Norway,
had applied to FIFA to change nations. Clearance for 16 players, who had
developed their international careers with other countries, eventually came.

The media in Kosovo
agreed it was a game the newcomers could have won. They had more shots on
target and also hit the post.

Nevertheless
goalkeeper Samir Ujkani was keeping his feet on the ground.

“While we have
shown that we can play football, we also know that we have made mistakes,”
he said. “We are still a young team.”

Next up for Kosovo
is a home game against Croatia on October 6, to be played in Shkoder, Albania.

GNA

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