By Perparim Isufi

The Kosovo Football Federation, FFK, has expressed fury over a letter
from the world football body FIFA, calling on it to lift a ban on a
planned match that it insists is “illegal” in the Serb-run north of

The KFF does not want the top Serbian team Belgrade Red
Star playing an unregistered team in northern Kosovo, saying that an
unauthorised match must not be played on Kosovo’s territory.

Much to its disappointment, however, FIFA has written to the FFK, saying it “encourages” the FFK to lift the ban.

draw for the Cup of Serbia saw the well-known Belgrade team due to play
Trepca, a team based in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica. The FFK
calls the unregistered team “illegal”.

The match was due to go
ahead on September 25 but has been put on hold. The FIFA letter hinted
that it had been rescheduled for October 5.

“In the interest of
football, we would like to encourage the FFK to withdraw the request
made to the Kosovo Security Institutions [to stop the game] so that the
match can take place on October 5,” the letter signed by the FIFA Deputy
Secretary general, Mattias Grafstrom, said.

FFK Secretary General
Eroll Salihu condemned the request, suggesting that the wider context
had not been understood. “It is more a political than a sporting issue,
so this letter is absurd,” Salihu told Radio Free Europe on Friday.

also insisted the matter was for UEFA and not FIFA to decide. “We sent
an explanatory letter to UEFA and not to FIFA because UEFA is competent

[on this matter]

, he recalled.

“We just informed FIFA, and it seems that an unexperienced official said that they would encourage it [the match],” he said.

He added that, as a full member of FIFA, the FFK was “the sole authority to organise matches within Kosovo’s territory”.

and politics often overlap in Kosovo, mainly because Serbia refuses to
recognise the independence of the former Serbian province, proclaimed
with Western support in 2008. As a result, the Serb-run far north of
Kosovo tends not to acknowledge the existence of the Kosovo government.

May 2018, the KFF rejected a request by Belgrade Red Star to play a
humanitarian match in the mainly Kosovo Serb town of Gracanica, saying
visiting fans had abused the country’s hospitality the previous year by
shouting anti-Kosovo slogans.

“For two years we gave permission
for the match, but this year we will not because at the last game things
happened that do not belong to sport,” the late FFK President, Fadil
Vokrri, said at the time.

“There were offensive messages and
that’s why we have rejected Red Star’s request. We have also informed
UEFA that there will be no match,” he added.

The May 2017 match
saw the players visit the nearby Serbian Orthodox monastery at
Gracanica. But Vokrri told the media that what riled the FKK was the
sound of Serbian fans cheering: “Kosovo is Serbia!” at the game.

March, Belgrade cancelled a planned match between the women’s junior
handball teams from Serbia and Kosovo amid rising tensions and fears of
clashes between Serbian fans and police.
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