Thursday, 27 February 2014

Experienced internationals in Kosovo squad for Haiti game but Blatter says no to nationality switch

Albania goalkeeper Samir Ujkani and Swiss striker Albert Bunjaku are two of several big name players who've accepted the call up for Kosovo’s friendly with Haiti next week.
Bunjaku played in the 2012 World Cup

However FIFA president Sepp Blatter has privately told the Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) that should they ever join the organisation players capped by other nations such as Xherdan Shaqiri cannot be called up.

The Haiti match, Kosovo’s first since FIFA permitted them to play their members, has been heavily documented after Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj rejected the offer to play in Mitrovica on Wednesday.

However Palermo goalkeeper Ujkani, a member of Sweden’s Euro 2012 squad, and Kaiserslautern captain Bunjaku have accepted the call up from the Football Federation of Kosovo.

Bunjaku played at the 2010 World Cup for Switzerland against Chile and teammate Enis Alushi, who was born in Mitrovica, is also in the squad which will be co-managed by former England assistant manager Tord Grip.

A big name who was set to feature against Haiti is Sweden midfielder Emir Bajrami. The Panathinaikos player, however, won't feature having picked up an injury.

A number of players from the Norwegian Tippeligaen have been called up, most notably Flamur Kastrati who won the 2013 title with Strømsgodset and was on course for a Norway cap after progressing through the youth teams.

Sandnes Ulf pair Avni Pepa and Anel Raskaj are also included with the latter having played 90 minutes in a 3-2 defeat in Kosovo’s last international against Albania in 2010.

Basle defender Taulant Xhaka was rumoured to feature but the FFK have said they didn't bother approaching any Swiss players currently involved in the national team with the World Cup in Brazil on the horizon. 
Shaqiri couldn't switch

Norway international Valon Berisha, who is enjoying a fine Europa League campaign with Red Bull Salzburg, was also tipped to play but is no longer likely to.

As the match isn’t between two FIFA nations players previously capped for other countries, such as Bajrami and Bunjaku, can play. However Sepp Blatter has privately told the FFK that should they ever join FIFA this will not be allowed.

The rules state that if a ‘new’ country is formed and join FIFA then players capped by the nation that went before it can switch allegiance (in this case Serbia) but not those who've played for other nations (such as Albania and Switzerland).

As a result Blatter has said that players such as Granit Xhaka, Valon Behrami and Shaqiri, as well as Bajrami and Bunjaku, would never be able to switch nationality and play for Kosovo.

The FFK asked for a special intervention should they ever join but Blatter was firm. A cynical view would suggest that he doesn’t want his home nation Switzerland decimated by such a ruling.

However with Januzaj turning down the request and Shaqiri privately telling friends he would never stop playing for Switzerland perhaps the news is not as damaging as it could be.

Regardless Kosovo are a long way off FIFA membership and games such as the one against Haiti look like the only action they will see in the immediate future.

The choice of Mitrovica by the FFK as the location for the Haiti game, which has a strong Serbian stronghold in the north, has left the Football Association of Serbia unhappy but helpless.
A poster for the game

The city is divided with Partizan Kosovska Mitrovica from the north competing in the Serbian pyramid whereas Trepça, whose Adem Jashari stadium is the venue next week, play in the Kosovo Superleague.

Over 17,000 tickets have been sold for the game which kicks off at 15:00 local time (14:00 UK). The full Kosovo squad is expected to be named tomorrow.

Kosovo squad - 

Goalkeepers: Samir Ujkani (Palermo [Italy]), Kushtrim Mushica (FC Prishtina) and Julian Bibelaj (Eintracht Frankfurt II [Germany]).

Defenders: Avni Pepa (Sandes Ulf [Norway]), Loret Sadiku (Helsingborg [Sweden]), Lum Rexhepi (Honka [Finland]), Shkodran Metaj (Emmen [Netherlands]) and Shpëtim Hasani (Örebro [Sweden]).

Midfielders: Anel Raskaj ((Sandes Ulf [Norway]), Ardian Gashi (Helsingborg [Sweden]), Enis Alushi (Kaisrerslautern [Germany]), Enis Bunjaku (Eintracht Frankfurt II [Germany]), Fanol Prededaj (Energie Cottbus [Germany]), Faton Toski (FSV Frankfurt [Germany]), Flamur Kastrati (Strømsgodset [Norway]), Kristian Nushi (St. Gallen [Switzerland]) and Liridon Krasniqi (Fethiyespor [Turkey]).

Forwards: Alban Bunjaku (Sevilla Atlético [Spain]), Albert Bunjaku (Kaiserslautern [Germany]), Bersant Celina (Manchester City academy [England]) and Ilir Azemi (Greuther Fürth [Germany]).

Srpska team to face Udinese as they press FIFA for international opportunities

Republika Srpksa will send an age-capped team to Italy next week to face Serie A side Udinese as they continue to press FIFA for the right to play friendlies.

Srpska wish to have FIFA's approval to play friendlies
The entity will travel to Udine on 5th March with a group of players, either under-21 or under 23, drawn from the Serbian, Montenegrin and Bosnian top-flight as well as other leagues in Europe.

Manager Branimir Tulić is expected to name a low-key squad drawn from different Balkan leagues with Vojvodina midfielder Nikola Popara and FK Leotar’s Stefan Udovičić likely to be included. Zoran Nikić, with 6 goals in the Bosnian top-flight this season for Radnik Bijeljina, could start in attack.

Tulić will name the squad this week just months after FIFA refused a request by the Football Association of Republika Srpska (FS RS) to play Serbia in a full senior friendly.

FIFA’s decision comes despite the Football Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FF BiH) declaring in July last year that they have no objection to Srpska playing friendlies. The rejection also came at the same time FIFA allowed Kosovo to play.

Sepp Blatter visited the Serbian FA last summer and was reportedly supportive of such a game going ahead. Indeed FS RS president Mile Kovačević said at the time “the date of the game will be solved very soon, either August, September or October”.

Srpska have faced FIFA blockage before. In 2008 an under-19’s game against Serbia was cancelled as well as a proposed match with Macedonia.

The FS RS & FF BiH work together
Youth teams have recently been more accepted by FIFA however with the under-15 side meeting both Hungary and the Serbs in the past year gaining a creditable draw with the latter in November.

The FS RS have stated before that they do not want international recognition and want to remain part of the FF BiH but wish to be allowed to play friendly international matches once a year.

Allegedly several big name players have expressed interest in playing for a Srpska representative side including Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotić and Zdravko Kuzmanović of Internazionale. Chelsea’s Marco Marin, currently on loan at Sevilla, is another.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Gibraltar prepare for Faroes and Estonia double-header

Gibraltar will play as UEFA members for the second time on Saturday when they host the Faroe Islands before Estonia travel to the Mediterranean the following Wednesday.
Gibraltar met the Faroes in 2011
The non-FIFA members, who were dealt a tough Euro 2016 qualification draw on Sunday, will return to their Victoria Stadium having played the November draw with Slovakia Estádio Algarve in Portugal.
There are several new faces in the Gibraltar squad for the games including 7 overseas players. Among them Wycmobe Wanderers striker Reece Styche and Wrexham’s David Artell are in line for their first caps.
Gibraltar have in fact hosted the Faroes before in 2011. A slightly weakened visiting side went down 3-0 that day but goalkeeper Jordan Perez told us they won’t underestimate Saturday’s opponents “of course this time round will be a complete different story though we too are reinforced by English [based] players”.
The Faroes will undertake a training camp in Malaga after the match and manager Lars Olsen is expected to name promising Midtjylland  defender Sonni Nattestad in his squad as well as Motherwell goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen.
For the hosts former Portsmouth midfielder Liam Walker, who now plays in Israel with Bnei Yehuda, and Preston North End’s Scott Wiseman have only been released by their clubs for the Estonia match.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 20:00 (19:00 UK) and we will provide live updates via our Twitter service @NoNFIFAfootball.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Sealand shock Chagos Islands with record win

Sealand produced a fine first half performance yesterday as they ran out 4-2 winners against the Chagos Islands in a friendly.

Jackson and Bertrand contest a high ball
The 2 goal margin meant it was the N.F.-Board members largest victory at international level whereas defeat for the Chagossians was their first at non-FIFA level.

The Sealanders got off to a perfect start when former Aldershot Town player Dan Smith chested the ball down and volleyed in a fine opener after 5 minutes. 

The early part of the game was end to end and on 20 minutes midfielder Deveeyen Soopramayen got the vocal Chagossian support on their feet as he was first to react after Miguel Mandarin's shot came back off the post.

However Sealand began to dominate what was a physical game and just after the half hour mark a fine cross from the right by Sam Churchman was nodded home by defender Jack Field. 

6 minutes later and it was 3 as Smith bettered his first goal with a sensational curling shot which left Mike Sakir in the Chagos goal with no chance - a strike that saw Smith become joint top scorer for Sealand.

The Sealanders were dominating and the tricky Smith was upended in the box in the 42nd minute but he blew his chance of a hat-trick when his penalty crashed back off the bar. 

The Chagossians started to get back into the game in the second period with Mandarin going close before Gael Ono was denied by Will Dukes from close range. 
Smith curls in his second goal

Sealand would extend their lead in the 60th minute when Josh Killen's cross inadvertandly curled into the top corner of Sakir's net.

The Chagos Islands rallied and almost responded immediately when Lorenzo Isau let fly from distance only for Dukes to produce a marvellous save. 

They eventually pulled a goal back when Soopramayen slotted home after being put through but despite some late pressure the score stayed the same.

The Chagossians have proposed a return game in April which Sealand have initially agreed too. A photo gallery from the game can be accessed via the Sealand National Football Association here.

Match information -

Score: Sealand 4-2 Chagos Islands

Goals: Sealand - Dan Smith 5’, 37’ Jack Field 31’ Josh Killen 60’. Chagos Islands - Deveeyen Soopramayen 20’ 78’

Sealand XI: Dukes; Gunn [Beiboer 53'], Field, Wilson [Addington 46'], Loveland; Squires [Mulvany 66], Press, Smith; Churchman [Sharp 63'], Killen [Wilkie 86']; Jackson [Hughes 46' [[Simpson 76']].

Chagos Islands XI: Sakir; Uranie, Augustin, Isau, Bertrand; Soopramayen, Mandarin, Narainen, Alexis; Ono, Lindor.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Tough Euro 2016 draw for Gibraltar

Gibraltar were dealt a baptism of fire as they were drawn with Germany, Ireland, Poland, Scotland and Georgia in their debut European Championship qualification campaign.

Gibraltar draw 0-0 with Slovakia in November
UEFA’s newest members were initially placed with Spain in group C but were moved to group D with European giants Germany, who have won the championships 3 times in their history.

The Gibraltarians will open up their campaign in September at their temporary home of Portugal against one of the co-hosts of Euro 2012, Poland. They then travel to Dublin in October before their most realistic chance of gaining some points at home to Georgia.

Manager Allen Bula told the BBC that his aim was “to reach the play offs” with captain Roy Chipolina expressing his delight at playing against players such as Lukas Podolski and Robert Lewandowski.

Gibraltar take on the Faroe Islands on Saturday at the Victoria Stadium before hosting Estonia. Our preview of the 2 games will be up next week.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Chagos Islands join ConIFA ahead of Sealand game

The Chagos Islands return to non-FIFA action when they take on Sealand this Sunday having been accepted by ConIFA as the organisations newest member yesterday.

The Chagossians applied to the new non-FIFA organising body only a few weeks ago and chairwomen of the UK Chagos Support Association Sabrine Jean told us after Tuesdays news “we are delighted to be accepted. Now we hope to find a sponsor and play more games”.

Miguel Mandarin beats the Sealand defence in 2012
The team have not played since a 3-1 victory over the Sealanders in May 2012. Like that fixture the game will be played in Surrey in England at the home of Godalming Town, who are members of the Southern League.

In preparation for the game joint managers Gianny Augustin and Gino Augustin have conducted daily training sessions this week. Captain Bruno Bertrand and attacker Miguel Mandarin are set to feature on Sunday.

Prior to the Sealand victory 2 years ago the Chagos Islands have played just once, comfortably beating Raetia 6-1 in 2011. A change in personnel at the Chagossian FA has meant a struggle to play games over the last few months.

Sealand, something of a controversy in non-FIFA football, will play their first international since a mixed trip to the Tynwald Hill Tournament on the Isle of Man in July.

The Seals will use an almost identical squad to the one that lost narrowly to Tamil Eelam, were comprehensively beaten by Occitania and won against Alderney last summer.

The Sealand National Football Association recently had an application to ConIFA turned down but have plans to travel to Monaco in May as the chances of a 2014 VIVA World Cup become more unlikely.

Defender Chris Gunn told us “the lack of information from the N.F.-Board is disappointing but we will continue to play in games and tournaments where we can. Hopefully we can start 2014 well with a result on Sunday”.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Ellan Vannin announce Monaco friendly

The newly formed Manx Independent Football Alliance, representing the Isle of Man, have confirmed their first friendly at home to Monaco on April 6th.

Crest..the MIFA logo
The game will be played at The Bowl in the island's capital Douglas and after initial problems with the Isle of Man FA MIFA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding which set out a working relationship between the 2 organisations.

The MIFA team, Ellan Vannin, was formed last year by Malcolm Blackburn after his club side St John's United hosted the Tynwald Hill International Tournament which included 5 non-FIFA teams. 

Blackburn saw the Isle of Man FA side as not truly representative of Manx people and as a result criteria for MIFA selection require being born on the island or having a parent or grandparent who was.

Ellan Vannin will compete in the inaugural ConIFA World Football Championship and Blackburn, who is vice-president of the new organisation, sees Monaco as perfect preparation "we believe they're not far off our standard but at the same time we're hopeful of a victory. It's a historic occasion for the island".

Youngster..Blackpool's Richardson
For the World Football Championship overseas players will likely be called upon but for the Monaco game the Ellan Vannin time will be almost all island-based. 

However Rowan Richardson, a junior player at English Championship side Blackpool, and former Republic of Ireland under-16 captain Seamus Starkey could also feature.

Monegasque Football Federation secretary Laurent Revollon told us "we are so excited to travel to the Isle of Man". Monaco will fly from Nice to Liverpool and stay overnight on Merseyside before heading over by boat to Douglas.  

Monaco last played in June, defeating the Vatican City 2-0, and before that their last game was a 2-1 loss at home to Raetia. The principality have plans for summer matches against Sealand and the Vatican.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Haiti the opposition for historic Kosovo friendly

Kosovo will host Haiti on March 5th less than 2 months after FIFA confirmed a set of regulations which allow the Kosovar national team to play member nations in friendlies.

Venue..the Olimpik Adem Jashari stadium
The Football Federation of Kosovo made the announcement yesterday with the northern town of Mitrovica, interestingly not capital city Pristina, the venue for the game. 

The 29,000 capacity Olimpik Adem Jashari, home of KF Trepça, will host the match at 15:00 local time.

It is unclear how many players previously capped by other nations will be called up as number of big Kosovar names have already played for FIFA members in competitive internationals. 

Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami and the Chievo pair Përparim Hetemaj and Samir Ujkani, who play for Finland and Albania respectively, are rumoured to feature.

In November we created a dream Kosovo XI which includes XherdanShaqiri and Adanan Januzaj. It is unlikely that either players will feature against Haiti however. The Caribbean side will play under new manager Marc Collat for the first time in Mitrovica.

Kosovo’s last international was against Albania in 2010 when they lost 3-2 in Pristina, which came 3 years after a fine 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia. The only other side to have beaten the Kosovars was Northern Cyprus in 2005.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

5 England-based players in Gibraltar squad for March double-header

Allen Bula has named 3 uncapped English-based players in the Gibraltar squad which will take on the Faroe Islands and Estonia on March 1st and 5th respectively.

Wycombe' Styche was prolific at non-league level
After securing a fine 0-0 draw with Slovakia on their UEFA debut in Portugal in November Gibraltar return to the Victoria Stadium for both games with Wrexham’s David Artell and Wycombe Wanderer’s Reece Styche both being selected for the first time.

Southampton acadamy goalkeeper Will Britt has been named in the Estonia squad being named in the Estonia squad with recently retired Danny Higginbotham and Adam Priestley of non-league Farsley called up again after they made their debuts in the Slovakia game last year. 

Preston North End's Scott Wiseman will only feature in the Estonia game. Liam Walker, who recently moved to Bnei Yehuda in Israel, is also included but only for the Estonia game.

Lincoln’s Roy Chipolina remains captain with 7 other players from Gibraltar’s leading club in the squad, including goalkeeper Jordan Perez and midfielder Daniel Duarte.

Gibraltar hosed the Faroe Islands in 2011 and ran out impressive 3-0 victors. They play Estonia for the first time and will travel to Tallinn for a return game in May. 

Gibraltar must play UEFA qualifiers in Portugal as the Victoria Stadium is only suitable for friendlies. The draw for 2016 European Championship qualification will take place on February 23rd with the Gibraltarians in pot 6. 

Full squad - 

Goalkeepers: Jordan Perez (Lincoln), Jamie Robba (Lynx), Will Britt (Southampton [England]) and Kevin De Los Santos (Man United 62).

Defenders: Roy Chipolina (Lincoln), Ryan Casciaro (Lincoln), Matt Reoch (Man United 62), Danny Higginbotham (retired), Jack Sergeant (Man United 62), Scott Wiseman (Preston North End [England]), David Artell (Wrexham [England]) and Yogan Santos (Man United 62).

Midfielders: Liam Walker (Bnei Yehuda [Israel]), Robert Guilling (Lincoln), Joseph Chipolina (St Joseph's), Jeremy Lopez (Man Untied 62), Daniel Duarte (Lincoln), Aaron Payas (Glacis United), Tyson Ruiz (Lynx) and Liam Clarke (Lincoln).

Forwards: Kyle Casciaro (Lincoln), George Cabrera (Lincoln), Adam Priestley (Farsley [England]) and Reece Styche (Wycombe Wanderers [England]).

Friday, 7 February 2014

French Guiana and Réunion make friendly plans

French Guiana will host Réunion on June 7th as the Indian Ocean side head to South America for the first time. The Ligue de Football de la Guyane have also expressed a desire to play Guadeloupe in April ahead of the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifiers.

Réunion (green) last met French Guiana (yellow) in 2012
After the French Football Federation cancelled the Coupe de l’Outre-Mer (here) some associations have acted swiftly to fill the representative team void. Réunion won the final tournament in 2012, defeating their June hosts 2-0 in the group stage.

French Guiana also hope to meet Guadeloupe in Cayenne in mid to late April with both sides keeping an eye on the 2014 Caribbean Cup. Both sides could potentially enter at either the pre-qualifying stage in May or first qualification round in September.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Azerbaijan protest to FIFA after Nagorno-Karabakh step up non-FIFA involvement

The Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) have written a letter to FIFA protesting against the planned participation of Nagorno-Karabakh in this summer’s ConIFA World Football Cup in Sweden.

Breakaway..the Artsakh Football Association 
The AFFA, who like Azerbaijan view the unrecognized republic as their territory, have also sent letters to the Swedish Football Federation and ConIFA themselves who are expected to release a statement tonight.

The Nagorno-Karabakh representative team made their non-FIFA debut in 2012 when they played Abkhazia twice, drawing 1-1 in the proclaimed Abkhazian capital Sukhumi in September before running out 3-0 victors on home turf in Stepanakert the following month. 

The Abkhazians are also set to play in Sweden but the Georgian Football Federation are not thought to be challenging their participation as the tournament isn't held under the aegis  FIFA’s, and thus they can’t hinder any teams entry.

Should any side drop out of the new competition, which is set for the first week of June, then South Ossetia and the County of Nice are on the waiting list. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Roman Abramovich and Caribbean Football Union plan tournament on Saint-Barthélemy

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is working with the Caribbean Football Union in order to fund an international tournament on Saint-Barthélemy in June.

Funded..the stadium Abromovich paid for in Saint-Jean
Fellow non-FIFA teams Sint Maarten and neighbouring Saint-Martin have expressed interest in playing along with a handful of FIFA members with the event set to be coordinated by the Caribbean Football Union.

Abramovich has property on the picturesque French overseas collectivity and after meeting the local government and football association agreed to pay for a tournament to take place during the first week of June.

The world’s 50th richest man has already financed the building of a stadium and resort for guest teams in Saint-Jean, in the north of the island, which allowed the Saint-Barthélemy national team play a first-ever home game in 2012 against Guadeloupe.

Abramovich paid for a similar tournament for clubs last year and also helps provide coaches to develop football on island, which is home to just over 9,000 people. New non-FIFA organisation ConIFA have expressed plans to provide online coverage, in tandem with the CFU, of the tournament.