It was a momentous day for the tiny Balkan territory of Kosovo on Monday.
In its first-ever competitive match as a FIFA nation they secured a 1-1 draw away at Finland in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.
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After falling behind in the first half, Kosovo was awarded a penalty kick just before the hour mark and it was duly dispatched by Valon Berisha.
Berisha’s goal sparked wild celebrations among the players, staff and hundreds of Kosovan fans in the stand and even the Finnish supporters saluted Kosovo after their huge struggle just to get this point. Berisha was one of six Kosovan players given the green light by FIFA just hours before kick off — captain and goalkeeper Samir Ujkani found out he could play on Monday afternoon — as several players switched their international allegiance with Kosovo only becoming a recognized FIFA nation in May.
They split from Serbia in 2008 and Kosovo has been playing unofficial friendlies since, with Serbia strongly disputing them becoming a FIFA nation. Kosovo is in Group I of UEFA World Cup qualifying and will also face Croatia, Turkey, Iceland and Ukraine in the upcoming months but their opening game and goal will live long in the memory.
James Motague was on site in Turku and took the following video of Kosovo’s players being cheered off the pitch at the end of the game.