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Kosovo come calling for Manchester United winger Januzaj

Feb 15, 2014, 7:57 AM EST

Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj watches a NBA preseason basketball game in Manchester Reuters

Since scoring twice in his first Premier League start, reversing Sunderland’s early lead and grabbing a win for Manchester United at the Stadium of Light, there’s been much talk of Adnan Januzaj‘s future in international football. The 18-year-old is eligible for a plethora of countries: Belgium, where he was born. Albania, as he’s ethnically Albanian. Possibly England, if he delays getting a senior cap in a competitive fixture for another country. There’s also talk of Turkey, through his grandparents, and Serbia, as his parents are from the still-disputed territory of Kosovo – but it’s almost inconceivable to think that Januzaj would take a call-up from the Serbian national team.

And now Kosovo itself has come calling. In January, FIFA gave the Football Federation of Kosovo permission to play international friendlies, although with the caveat that the team cannot play against national teams of the former republics of Yugoslavia. With that in mind, Kosovo has arranged for its first FIFA-sanctioned international match, to be played against Haiti on March 5.

For that match, Kosovo want the young Januzaj. His performances for United have been impressive, one of the few bright spots in the Red Devils’ stale season. And, as it’s only a friendly, Januzaj’s participation would not prevent him from playing for another national team in the future.

It’s not as though Kosovo is lacking talent. Albanian international Lorik Cana, currently with Lazio, along with Swiss internationals Valon Behrami of Napoli, Granit Xhaka of Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich are all of Kosovar Albanian descent. But having Januzaj, said Eroll Salihu, the secretary of the FFK, would be “hugely symbolic” for Kosovo.

  1. Jenna - Feb 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Having a Kosovo team will gut the Swiss team, something I’m not looking forward to. While it’s hard to blame them for wanting their own team, FIFA usually only supports teams from actual countries. This is a major exception, and I’m still not exactly sure why…

    • Kirsten Schlewitz - Feb 15, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      That’s not entirely the case, as Palestine is a member of FIFA, as is “Chinese Taipei”.
      There’s also the likes of Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands…not “countries” as we know them, but definitely FIFA participants.

      • Jenna - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:12 PM

        With the exception of Palestine, those are all recognized entities. Kosovo is just not, and quite frankly, may never be. FIFA is making a political statement with Kosovo, and it’s a bigger deal than the others because it has a major impact on current FIFA members in good standing. We’ll see how it plays out, but as a Swiss supporter, I don’t have to like it.

  2. Jenna - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    And actually, Palestine isn’t an exception either, come to think of it.

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