Januzaj could play for Kosovo – but it won't end England hopes

Feb 18, 2014
Bill Mann

Man Utd teenager is being urged to make 'symbolic' appearance in Kosovo's first international match

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

MANCHESTER UNITED'S teenage winger Adnan Januzaj, more used to worrying about impressing girls at Nando's than global football diplomacy, is coming under "increasing political pressure" to make his international debut for Kosovo in their inaugural international next month, a friendly against Haiti.

The 19-year-old, who signed a new five-year-deal with Manchester United last October, was born in Belgium to Kosovan-Albanian parents and is also eligible to play Serbia after Kosovo declared independence from the country in 2008. In addition the teenager has Turkish grandparents while he could also play for England by 2018 because Fifa rules permit a player to represent a team if "he has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18".

With so many potentially interested parties, Januzaj has yet to decide on where his international ambitions lie, but according to the Daily Mail Januzaj has received a "personal plea" from Kosovo's deputy prime minister to play in the historic match. The paper says that  Behgjet Pacolli, a construction tycoon as well as a politician, wants the youngster to "commit his international future to the country".

Though the Football Federation of Kosovo [FKK] claims the invitation is merely "symbolic", its general secretary Eroll Salihu said: "We believe that he is obliged to show his people that he will be there when needed in a historic moment. We should have an answer by the end of this week and Januzaj's appearance would simply show that he has not forgotten his people, even (if) he can play only for ten or 15 minutes."

If Januzaj did play for Kosovo against Haiti on 5 March it wouldn't jeopardise his future because, as the BBC reports, "only competitive games prevent a player from representing another nation". Nonetheless, by appearing for Kosovo he could find himself under even more pressure to commit his international future to the nation.

The match will be Kosovo's first since Fifa ruled last month that the Balkan country - still not a member of the United Nations - may play friendlies against other nations except those that once belonged to the former Yugoslavia. The BBC says that Kosovo "will not be allowed to display national symbols or play their national anthem and the game will not count as an official international match".

Only last week it was reported in The Independent that Januzaj's father, Abedin, would prefer him to play for England, the country where he has lived since signing for Manchester United  from the Anderlecht academy in March 2011.

England manager Roy Hodgson has so far avoided becoming embroiled in the saga, saying Januzaj's international future "is a matter for the FA board... because it does raise a lot of issues within football."

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