England-Kosovo match: Euphoria, gratitude and anti-Serb chants in Pristina

engleska kosovo
FOTO: Gazeta Express

The final Group A European Championship 2020 qualifying match between Kosovo and England will take place in Pristina tonight. According to reactions on social networks and foreign media reports, however, the news of the match seems to take second place to the apparent general enthusiasm in Pristina – and among the majority of Albanians – over the very arrival of England’s national team to Kosovo.

Albanians welcomed the English national team and their fans, several hundred of whom came to Kosovo, with the inscription „Welcome and Respect“ written on billboards across Pristina – all while referring to the Englishmen as their „brothers.“

Anti-Serb slogans

Kosovo media reported extensively yesterday about the reaction of English fans to their Pristina welcome. The Pristina-based Gazeta Express portal also released footage of Kosovo and English football fans chanting „Serbs are scum wherever they are“.

Social media is rife with messages from both sides which highlight, on the one hand, the success of Kosovo in 2019 and, on the other hand, the negative role Serbia played in 1999.

Last night, in the center of Pristina, on the main promenade on Mother Teresa Street, the English football fans fought amongst themselves. They were detained and released shortly after.

Kosovo police have undertaken a separate operational plan for this match, and traffic to Fadil Vokrri Stadium has been suspended for safety reasons.

The English media also wrote about Kosovans’ enthusiasm over the arrival of the English national team to Kosovo.

The Sun reported that Kosovo football fans „took extraordinary lengths to make England players and fans feel welcome in Pristina.” The same newspaper also wrote that in addition to billboards with inscription „Welcome brother“, the Football Federation of Kosovo also plans to display images of poppies at the stadium tomorrow in tribute to British soldiers who died during the World War I.

“And on top of all that, the Kosovo team have let England stay at their favourite hotel and moved to a different one,” the Sun writes.

The same newspaper reported that the FFK President Agim Ademi said Kosovo wants to use this match to show England that they will always be thankful for all they have done for them.

“We want to use this match to say thank you to England and Britain. Regarding qualification, it does not have any effect for us but it is still a huge sporting event for the country,” Ademi said, the Sun reported.

The British Guardian writes the UK’s role “in ending the brutal struggle with Serbian forces has never been forgotten in Kosovo.”

“It is why streets are named after Tony Blair and Robin Cook, who were instrumental in the policy making that led to NATO forcing Belgrade’s withdrawal of troops from Kosovo, and why a handful of children were famously named Tonibler,” the Guardian reported.

“In 1999, kickabouts with English soldiers offered a sign that young Kosovans could look forward to their future. Today, England play in Pristina” – English football fans tweeted.

In addition to the football fans, the Kosovo public figures have been sharing messages on Twitter of English fans’ enthusiasm over their reception in Kosovo.

The English national football team needs to win tonight in order to secure the top position in the group, while the Kosovo national team lost the opportunity to directly qualify for the Euro 2020 after losing to the Czech Republic on Thursday night in Plzen. However, the Kosovo team still has a chance to subsequently qualify through the Nations League playoff.

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