As England ready to sponsor Kosovo at Tuesday’s Euro 2020 Qualifier, we take a look at the’Brazil of the Balkans’ emergence as a nation and they turned into the in-form global side of Europe.
The emergence of a nation
Kosovo, with a population of 1.8m folks, had to campaign for almost a decade until they were admitted as FIFA and UEFA associates at 2016 following their announcement of independence from Serbia in February 2008.
Many countries, such as Serbia, still do not recognise sovereignty and the issue continues to rear its head in football.
Officials said authorities in Kosovo detained eight European fans that were supposedly planning to fly a drone using an banner that was pro-Serbia during Saturday’s Euro 2020 Qualifier between the two sides. Six men and two women were arrested close to the capital of Pristina and police seized a drone, a Serbian flag and a banner which read”Kosovo is Serbia,” and also fireworks along with a knife.
Having played friendlies since 2010, Kosovo began playing FIFA members with their first official game with a goalless draw with Haiti.
Kosovo played their first competitive global football match in September 2016 – a 1-1 draw against Finland at a World Cup 2018 qualifier and have since taken part in the UEFA Nations League and currently Euro 2020 eligibility.
Bernard Challandes might not have been a household name until this passionate information conference, but he’s got the golden touch when it comes to Kosovo.
The 68-year-old has turned consequences around and was handed the reins. He had no playing career to speak of, playing in the lower leagues, but has had a protracted career that is managerial.
He has been in charge of a host of teams has taken charge of the U21s of Switzerland and also has managed Armenia but resigned after failure to qualify for Euro 2016.
He won the Swiss league in 2009 with FC Zurich and the team made their debut in the Champions League group stages the following season. The Swiss Cup was also won by him with Sion.
Challandes’ coming as Albert Bunjaki’s successor in 2018 has turned Kosovo’s fortunes around. They are unbeaten in 15 matches, winning 10 of these, and so are in with a chance of making next summer’s finals, with fans dubbing them ‘Brazil of the Balkans’.
Their fine form allowed their own Nations League team, so they’re guaranteed a spot to be topped by them, and they’re also horses at the Group A of England, with conquered on the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
A 2-1 home triumph over the Czech Republic at the weekend made it 15 games unbeaten, the longest such run in Europe.
They are currently 120th from the FIFA world rankings, Bulgaria are 60th and however, for circumstance, Czech Republic are all 43rd.
One of the titles is that of Sheffield Wednesday striker Atdhe Nuhiu, who’s a goal man using strength and his 6ft 6ins height.
Bersant Celina will be a familiar face. He plays for Championship side Swansea having begun at Manchester City.
Reporter’s opinion – Mark McAdam along with Kaveh Solhekol
Sky Sports News writer Kaveh Solhekol was at Bernard Challandes’ pre-match news conference: Listed below are his ideas…
The importance of Kosovo playing England cannot be overestimated. There’s a special bond between the states ever because NATO bombing against Serbian targets in 1999 led to independence.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is still a revered figure there and for a while Tony and Tonibler were some of the most popular names for baby boys in Kosovo.
He wished to talk about soccer although manager Bernard Challandes was asked concerning the bond between Kosovo and the united kingdom. He’s hoping his game plan will”disturb” England and he thinks his players won’t be underestimated with their competitors.
There should not be a danger of that. Gareth Southgate is currently anticipating this to be the toughest test of his side up to now in qualifying. Kosovo haven’t lost for nearly two years and their 15-match unbeaten run would be the greatest in European football.
No matter the outcome, spare a thought for the man who will sit next to Challandes again to translate his words. Challandes speaks English so much and so fast his translator has to stop him to be able to have a chance. Let’s hope England’s defenders have a more quiet night at St. Mary’s.
Sky Sports News reporter Mark McAdam also spoke to Kosovo players Bersant Celina and Elbasan Rashani to receive their thoughts before the England battle…
Three years back, there was not a Kosovo nationwide side, now there is. And boy have they announced themselves. Unbeaten in 15 matches over a couple of years, their rise on the worldwide stage is nothing short of awesome. Up next a match the players describe as their”biggest ever” – England.
They’ll be facing a group they watch every week at the Premier League. Daunted? No. Worried? No. Excited? Yes. But that is just another game.
I met with a participant dubbed the mind of the Kosovo group, two of their stars, Bersant Celina, currently top of the Championship with Swansea, and his roommate Elbasan Rashani, called Elba playing in Norway.
They were relaxed and focused on the task in hand. diagrams were featured by their notes for the game from the supervisor left to the coffee table to the side as though it was college assignments. You would not have thought away from playing in the biggest game in their own lives they had been 24 hours.
We chatted about everything from household life to golf football and their charismatic manager, because he is in the room, that they say is the same in front of the media. Passionate is still an understatement. Who’d dare to argue with him at this time? The unthinkable is being masterminded by him.
The two lads grin with every response , they joke with each other when their English is not quite as great as they think that it should be, but they can hold their own. They know more about their country’s history, they’ve seen the movies, listened to these tales, relived the minutes by using their own grandparents.
The loved ones arguably gain more from the group’s success, seeing grandchildren and their kids playing to the country they were forced to flee. The players take all this into their stride. They are respectful humble and totally conscious of what this signifies. However, for them it’s simply one more game.