Kosovo Albanian football fan

Kosovo Albanian football fan

For while it is one thing to be kept on your toes before a football match, it is quite another to not know your international eligibility until the day of your nation’s first ever competitive fixture.

Six players still didn’t know if FIFA would permit them to switch allegiances at 16:00 local time Monday; how fitting then that it was one of those desperate few, Valon Berisha, who scored the crucial goal.

Having been forced to wait until the eleventh hour, the former Norway international stepped up after 60 minutes to enter the history books, prompting wild celebrations in Turku & congratulations from around the world.

Just getting here has required determination, resolve and no shortage of patience; Kosovo goalkeeper and team captain Samir Ujkani admitted he “went outside and cried” after hearing confirmation he could play.

The players will surely need such qualities and more with fixtures against established Euro 2016 nations Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine and Iceland awaiting them.

But now, eight years after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia — and just two years on from the team’s first ever FIFA-sanctioned friendly match against Haiti — the destiny of manager Albert Bunjaki’s men for the first time rests firmly in their own hands.