Kosovo wants anthem, flag respected in Spain at WC qualifier


PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s soccer federation warned its Spanish counterpart on Tuesday to respect the Balkan country’s sovereignty when they play their World Cup qualifier in Seville this month.

The federation took issue with the Spanish national team’s references, in a press release and on Twitter, to Kosovo as a “territory.” The teams are scheduled to play March 31.

“We shall play only in line with the strict UEFA criteria and rules, with the state anthem and flag, otherwise the match won’t take place,” the federation said a statement.

Kosovo and Spain are in Group B together with Sweden, Greece and Georgia.

Spain, Greece and Georgia do not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence from Serbia.

Two years ago, Spain’s refusal to respect the flag and anthem of Kosovo forced UEFA to move qualifying games in soccer’s under-17 European Championship.

Kosovo is “an independent state recognized by most of the developed democratic countries on the globe” and has been an equal member with other countries at UEFA and FIFA since May 2016, the federation said.

The description of Kosovo as a territory is “unacceptable,” the federation said. It said it has asked the Spanish federation to respond to its concerns, saying that such actions “damage relations between our federations and countries.”

“If they do not react for that, we shall be obliged to ask for our right at UEFA, where we shall ask for protection from that institution as we are a UEFA member with equal rights like the 54 other federations and Spain is obliged to treat us like that,” it said.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a brutal 1998-1999 war between separatist ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb forces ended following a 78-day NATO air campaign that drove Serb troops out and a peacekeeping force moved in.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but not European Union member countries Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain. Serbia and its allies Russia and China also haven’t.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania

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