By Andrew Warshaw
October 21 – In another strategic move to preserve football’s geo-political status quo, UEFA have decided to keep apart Russia and Kosovo in European competition because of “security risks”.
Unlike most countries in the United Nations, Russia, which is part-hosting Euro 2020, does not formally recognise Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 though neither do fellow hosts Azerbaijan, Romania and Spain .
Following a meeting of its emergency panel, UEFA said Russia and Kosovo “shall no longer be drawn against each other in any future UEFA competitions until further notice”, a move clearly made partly with the Euro 2020 draw on November 30 in mind. Russia has already qualified and will host four games in St. Petersburg.
Ahead of the draw, UEFA have already ruled that Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot be in the same group as Kosovo if both teams qualify. Kosovo, which was granted full membership of UEFA and FIFA in 2016 despite strong opposition from Serbia, has two bites at the cherry, one from its qualifying group and a second option through playoffs next March.
Russia, which has also been kept apart from Ukraine in UEFA competitions since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, recently successfully requested to postpone the Women’s Euro 2021 qualifier against Kosovo that was scheduled for October 4 in Pristina. That match – and the return fixture on June 9 next year – will take place on neutral ground.
Earlier this year Spain were stripped of hosting qualifying games of the Under-17 European Championship for refusing to recognise the national symbols of Kosovo
Soon afterwards UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said UEFA’s policy “obliges all other teams to accept to play against Kosovo national and club teams as the result of a draw, be it on their own territory or on the territory of Kosovo. Likewise Kosovo must accept to play against any other teams, home and away.”
However, Ceferin immediately provided a loophole by adding that a team hosting Kosovo can decide to play on neutral ground.
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