Atdhe Nuhiu is loving life at Sheffield Wednesday

Atdhe Nuhiu is loving life at Sheffield Wednesday

They lived in constant fear in Pristina, where the Sheffield Wednesday was born before fleeing the conflict with his parents to Austria.

After the bloodshed of independence from Serbia, every game of football as a country is a celebration.

So hosting England and playing at Wembley in Euro qualifiers is just that extra bit special – and Nuhiu will be thinking of those he left behind when he left as a baby.

“At that time there were no cellphones unless you were someone who had a lot of money, but I didn’t grow up posh in Austria,” he said.

“You would call and always have a fear that something had happened. You saw the news and picked up the phone and you were never sure.

“Those who were there, when they tell the stories, it is different. They always stayed in the basement.

“If a bomb came and they were in the basement, nothing could happen. During the war, you need to find the best way.”

Nuhiu had started his football career in Austria by the time Kosovo gained independence.

He had played for Austria Under-21s but switching was a no-brainer after getting FIFA status, especially after those calls home and visits back in person.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka are among footballers with Kosovan heritage – and there are more stars-in-waiting that should emerge in time.

“Since independence, you can see how many from Kosovo or Albanian origin have stepped up and became really good players for a country with a population of 2million people,” Nuhiu said.

“That is the thing, it’s a young country and the people are just used to suffering all of the time.

“Now when we win, or even when it’s just game day, it’s like a Bank Holiday. It’s a big thing for the people.

Nuhiu, 29, expects Kosovo to be competitive in Group A and says the England games are a bonus. It will be the games against Czech Republic, Bulgaria and neighbours Montenegro that will be decisive.

He has warned Gareth Southgate that his players will be facing passionate opponents and a frenzied crowd at the Fadil Vokrri Stadium next year.

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