Exclusive: Platini holds secret meeting with Kosovans in Albania

Kosovan messageBy Andrew Warshaw
February 20 - Kosovan football authorities are celebrating another significant step forward after the head of their federation, Fadil Vokrri, held potential breakthrough talks with UEFA President Michel Platini in the Albanian capital of Tirana.

Under UEFA statutes, Kosovo is not recognised since it is not a member of the United Nations. But after years of keeping the breakaway state in footballing isolation, Albanian sources have confirmed that Platini and his number two, Gianni Infantino, met Vokrri for confidential discussions at the headquarters of the Albanian FA as part of a wider, pre-arranged courtesy visit to Albania.

Although neither the Kosovans nor UEFA provided any details due to the sensitive nature of the meeting, the sources confirmed that the discussions, also attended by Albanian representatives, focussed on the international future for Kosovan football.

The Balkan state declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade still lays formal claim to the territory and is unlikely to be pleased by Platini holding talks with the Kosovans who, it is understood, made the request for formal dialogue after being blocked for years by UEFA from playing official matches.

Platini has been anxious not to upset Serbia and to avoid Kosovo creating a precedent for other secessionist regions to jump on the bandwagon, especially after Gibraltar recently won its legal case to become the 54th member of European football's governing body.

But UEFA's position on Kosovo has been seriously compromised after FIFA formally authorised its national team and clubs to play friendly matches, albeit with certain restrictions. Kosovo's first hugely symbolic game since that announcement will take place in the city of Mitrovica against Haiti on March 5.

Platini's visit to Albania, which included a meeting with senior political figures, generated widespread local media attention not least when he reportedly visited the site for a new national stadium. Albanian reports said the UEFA boss was briefed on a new schools programme and quoted him as saying: "It's important for your youth, your children to be entertained through this sport and perhaps one day, a new Ronaldo and a new Messi will come out, a beautiful thing for Albania."

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