Serbia's fury at FIFA's Kosovo stance

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says Kosovo are on the path to full membership of soccer's governing body

Story highlights

  • FIFA defends decision to permit Kosovo to participate in international matches
  • Soccer's governing body altered their long-held stance at meeting in Budapest
  • Decision prompted an angry reaction from Serbia who want urgent clarification
  • FIFA general secretary claims decision supports development of football

Kosovo may not be recognized by the United Nations but the region has taken a giant leap towards acceptance in the soccer world thanks to FIFA's decision to allow its national team to play in international matches.

Football's world governing body has given dispensation to Kosovo to participate in friendly games against its 208 member states after repeatedly blocking previous requests for recognition.

Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is not a member of the United Nations -- despite being recognized by 90 countries -- or UEFA, which governs European football.

It has been under U.N. administration and patrolled by NATO troops since a 1999 bombing campaign that halted a Serb-led campaign against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter told the organization's executive committee in Budapest that the decision would bring Kosovo into line with other Balkan countries and put it on the path to full membership.

But the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) reacted angrily, posting a statement on its official website that spoke of the "negative and harmful effects" the ruling could have.

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"We strongly protest the decision by FIFA's executive committee to allow the world soccer governing body's members to play friendly matches with the so-called national team of the so-called Republic of Kosovo," the FSS said.

"The decision made behind closed doors in Budapest without any consultations with either UEFA or the Serbian Football Association blatantly contravenes the FIFA statutes.

"Hence we will ask for an urgent meeting with FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini to demand a reverse of this unjustified decision which could have far-reaching consequences across the region."

But in reply, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke invited the Serbian FA to a meeting at the ruling body's headquarters in Zurich to discuss the ramifications.

In a letter to Tomislav Karadzic, President of the FSS, Valcke said: "We would like to stress that the FIFA Executive Committee made clear that such authorization does not constitute a step towards FIFA membership, which depends on other considerations.

"In particular, and according to both the current and draft statutes of FIFA, as long as (Football Federation of Kosovo) is not a member of UEFA it cannot be a member of FIFA. The decision was intended purely to support the development of our sport."

Kosovo is recognized by the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany, as well as all its immediate neighbors apart from Serbia.

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