Kosovo's long-standing love for football has been reinforced with the admission of the Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) to UEFA as the European body's 55th member.
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Football was present in Kosovo in the early years of the 20th century. The first ball in Kosovo is said to have been brought by a student from Grenoble, France, and it is believed that football was played there as early as 1914, by Austro-Hungarians serving in Kosovo.
The first football clubs were formed in 1922 in Gjakova and Prishtina, and new clubs soon followed, although competitions were not staged on a regular basis.
Following the Second World War, between 1945 and 1991, football in Kosovo made rapid progress. The Football Federation of Kosovo was formed in 1946, and was a co-founder of the Yugoslav Football Association (FSJ) in 1948.
FK Priština were a well-known club in the Yugoslav top flight, while FK Trepça also played at the highest level. The domestic second league regularly featured three or four Kosovo clubs. Kosovo also had its own first league, with the champions participating directly in the second Yugoslav league. Kosovo was represented at the FSJ's highest levels, and its referees officiated matches in the federal league.
In 1991, at the time of the break-up of Yugoslavia, Kosovo's football was at its peak, and was represented by several clubs in the top two federal leagues. However, political and security issues created various footballing difficulties. In the end, love for football prevailed, and the independent Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) was founded in August 1991.
The first game was played in the Flamurtari stadium in Prishtina on 13 September 1991, and marked the start of the first independent championship in Kosovo. The first division comprised 20 teams, while other leagues were staged on a regional basis.
Almost 18 months later, a Kosovo representative team played their first international match against Albania's national team, losing 3-1. Ten years later the teams met again in Prishtina, with Albania again emerging victorious by a single goal.
From 1991 to 1998, football in Kosovo was played according to UEFA and FIFA rules, with any amendment to these rules applied within the domestic competition system.
The next stage of football in Kosovo began immediately after the end of the 15-month Kosovo War in 1999, when the Football Federation of Kosovo was reorganised. The association's assembly was constituted, statutes came into force, clubs were confirmed and committees were established.
Currently, the top division in Kosovo comprises 12 clubs. KF Feronikeli have enjoyed considerable success in recent years, winning two championships and two domestic cups.
In 2014, FIFA allowed Kosovo to play friendly international matches and, among these, the representative selection held Albania to a 2-2 draw in Prishtina in November 2015, shortly after the Albanians had secured their place at UEFA EURO 2016.
The FFK became UEFA's 55th member association at the UEFA Congress in Budapest in May 2016.
A historic moment for Kosovo’s football came on 5 September 2016, as the national team made its debut in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying competition. On that date, Kosovo draw 1-1 in Finland in their first-ever group stage opener.
Bersant Celina, Milot Rashica and Donis Avdijaj are considered as fine young Kosovo talents. They all play for renowned European clubs, and previously played for other national teams at youth level.
Meanwhile, the women’s national team also competed for the first time in the qualifying campaign for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, taking part in the preliminary round.
In addition, Kosovo’s futsal champions FC Feniks participated in the UEFA Futsal Cup in the first year of Kosovo’s membership of UEFA, passing the preliminary and main rounds before going out in the elite round. This run was considered as a major achievement for Kosovo at club level. The futsal national team also took part in the preliminary round of the UEFA Futsal EURO 2018 qualifying competition.
Another proud achievement saw referee Genc Nuza join the international list of match officials in 2017, at the tender age of 27.
Born: 19 October 1961
Association president since: 2018
Born: 26 April 1985
Association general secretary since: 2021