Today marks a historic day in the history of Kosovan football - as they play their first officially sanctioned match in a friendly tie against Haiti in Mitrovica.
Much has been made of Kosovo’s fight to be recognised as an official FIFA member. In the past, top players of Kosovar descent have instead represented countries from across Europe - with Albania and Switzerland in particular - and a group of big names polled FIFA to allow them to play international friendlies in 2012.
The likes of Lorik Cana, Xherdan Shaqiri and Valon Behrami among the many - and with the furore over the future of Adnan Januzaj’s international career - the issue has been thrust into the spotlight once again.
But for one player, who once found himself in a similar position to Januzaj, today has been a proud day.
Alban Bunjaku was born in Romford, East London - and rejected calls to play youth football for England during his time in the Arsenal academy.
He was a highly rated member of that Arsenal youth team - and when they lost him to Spanish side Sevilla in 2012 they were rightly upset.
The 19-year-old left Sevilla in 2013 and is now plying his trade for Slavia Prague - although is not currently a first-team regular at the club.
But today he started in this momentous game for his nation.
He spoke about his international allegiance in a recent interview with Albanian paper Telegrafi - stating:
“I am very glad that I came to play for the national side in Kosovo, I hope we succeed, because these are the first steps of Kosovo. I am well prepared for the game. Invitation I received very well and I was delighted when Albert called me and without thinking twice I said yes. England, back then I had in mind, but to (play for) Albania did not want to go. I always wanted to play only for Kosovo and I knew that this day would come…”
Unfortunately it was not a dream beginning - for anyone. The game ended 0-0 but that would not have mattered to this group of players - who made history this afternoon.
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