Seven Kosovo Super League clubs have loaned FC Prishtina players to ensure the club’s Europa League tie with Gibraltan side Lincoln Red Imps goes ahead, after eight Prishtina players tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, FC Prishtina became Kosovo’s second football club in the space of a week to have a match postponed in a European competition due to a number of its players testing positive for coronavirus.
On August 11, FC Drita’s qualifying match for the UEFA Champions League with Linfield of Northern Ireland, being played in Nyon, Switzerland, was postponed after two players tested positive for the virus. Swiss authorities ordered the team to quarantine, and UEFA awarded Linfield a 3-0 victory, with the Northern Irish side progressing to the next round.
Fears were that the same fate would await FC Prishtina when, despite the club’s whole delegation producing a negative result from Kosovo’s National Institute of Public Health before travelling, eight players tested positive for the virus in a UEFA-licensed lab.
News of the positive results emerged just hours before Prishtina’s Europa League qualifying match with Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps was due to kick off. The Kosovo club argued that they still had the requisite players to complete the fixture, with 14 still available, but, according to FC Prishtina, Gibraltan authorities did not allow the game to take place.
On Wednesday night, FC Prishtina announced that after discussions with UEFA, an agreement was reached. The match could be rescheduled, but only if none of Prishtina’s players, coaches or officials that travelled to Gibraltar earlier this week were part of the new delegation.
Despite the incredibly short notice, Prishtina have already managed to put together a squad to fulfil the fixture. Managerial duties will be taken on by their former trainer and Kosovo’s under-19s coach, Ramiz Krasniqi, while the playing squad is made up of players loaned from seven different Super League clubs.
Prishtina manager Armend Dallku told Prishtina Insight that he and Krasniqi came up with the names together at short notice. “I am really thankful to [Krasniqi], the federation and all the clubs who have been really supportive in this difficult time,” he said.
Dallku added that Prishtina’s new representatives are incredibly motivated by the situation. “There have been only two training sessions with the new players, but the good thing is that the players know each other as they played in the Kosovo league together,” he told Prishtina Insight.
The squad includes ten former Prishtina players, including Mentor Zhdrella, winner of Kosovo Footballer of the Year in 2013 and Lapidar Lladrovci, who won the Super League with Ferronikeli in 2019. Prishtina publicly thanked Ferronikeli, as well as Llapi, Vushtrri, Ballkani, Trepca 89, Flamurtari and Drenica for coming to the club’s aid and allowing them to compete in Europe.
“Since joining UEFA, Prishtina has enjoyed every positive result of our teams in the international arena, because success in Europe helps all of Kosovar football,” the club stated. “Prishtina humbly thanks you!”
Prishtina’s players are still awaiting the results of a second test at the National Institute of Public Health, and their manager Armend Dallku hopes that there will be no further complications. “For the Prishtina players this was a bitter thing,” Dallku said. “It’s them who brought Prishtina at this phase but this is the sad reality.”
The Europa League match with Lincoln Red Imps is now scheduled to be played at the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar at 18:00 on Saturday. The club has said it will do everything it can to ensure the match goes ahead.
“FC Prishtina will test the whole expedition leaving nothing to chance,” the club said. “We hope our luck goes well and we no longer have worries over infections.”
20 August 2020 - 10:30
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