Albania to play friendlies against Kosovo, Georgia

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 6, 2015 10:42

albanTIRANA, Nov. 5 – After claiming a historic direct qualification for France 2016, Albania has confirmed two friendlies against Kosovo and Georgia in the next couple of weeks.

Albania’s first friendly will be against neighboring Kosovo which is still not officially recognized by football governing bodies UEFA and FIFA but is allowed to play in friendlies without displaying national symbols or playing the national anthem. The match scheduled for Nov. 13 in Prishtina is an all-Albanian encounter. Most of Albania’s national side stars are of Kosovo origin which has sparked debates about their future, if Kosovo already recognized by 112 countries, is accepted as a full FIFA and UEFA member.

The neighbouring country which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 was allowed by world football governing body to play its first international match against Haiti back in 2014.

Ilir Shulku, the Secretary General of Albania’s Football Association, described the friendly against Kosovo after a request by the neighboring association in Kosovo as “moral obligation and great pleasure.” “There will be another celebration in Prishtina,” he said.

A considerable number of Kosovo fans follow Albania’s matches and its first ever qualification in a European championship has also been celebrated as historic in Kosovo, Macedonia, and among Albanian communities all over the world.

The last time Albania played Kosovo was more than a decade ago in 2002 in an unofficial match as Kosovo was under international protection after an armed conflict with Serbia.

Albania’s second friendly will be at home to Georgia on Nov. 16 at the national “Qemal Stafa” stadium in Tirana which will host its last match before being demolished to pave the way to a modern stadium with a capacity of 20,000 fans.

“We were in contact with Croatia, Poland, Finland, Cyprus and Bulgaria to hold friendlies, but unfortunately there was a short time available to reach deals after the end of European qualifiers and the play-off stage,” said secretary Shulku.

Last October, Albania beat Armenia 3-0 to claim direct qualification in the 2016 UEFA European Championship in a decisive last qualifier for the second place in Group I of the Euro qualifiers to avoid play-offs in case of a possible third place.

Group I also featured leaders Portugal, third-placed Denmark and Serbia and Armenia.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 6, 2015 10:42