- Kosovo was admitted to FIFA on 13 May 2016
- The women’s national team rose four places in the latest world rankings
- Historic victory in UEFA Women’s EURO qualifying
At first glance, a four-place rise from 126th to 122nd in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking might not seem like a significant improvement. Yet it shows that, despite being formed less than nine years ago, the Kosovo women’s national team are on the right track.
Coach Aferdita Fazlija’s side underlined this point by winning their first-ever qualifier for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2021, following it up with a defeat by Slovenia and another win against Estonia.
“It was important to kick off our qualifying campaign with a win against an opponent like Turkey, and personally it makes me feel very proud,” Fazlija explained in an interview with FIFA.com. “We would never have thought that we could pick up six points from three matches.
“We wanted to improve, perform well and not think about the points. Given that we are a new and inexperienced national team, I think we played two good games. However, it’s important to stress that our performance against Slovenia was anything but good, and it highlighted the experience we still lack.”
While many countries can look back on a history of women’s football stretching back over many years, the women’s side of the beautiful game is still in its infancy in Kosovo. Although the story began with the founding of FFC Pristina in the 1980s, the national team was established much later – in April 2011. Plenty has happened since then.
“The crowds that turned out to see us start our qualifying campaign were fantastic,” the 49-year-old continued. “The matches were broadcast on national television so that many Kosovans could follow them live. The level of professionalism on display against Turkey attracted attention and sparked a new interest in women’s football.”
These are not the only positive changes when it comes to women’s football development. In addition to the ten-club senior league, an U-16 league and U-16 and U-19 national teams have also been created. “We have also set up a number of clubs in most public schools across the country,” Fazlija explained.
Fazlija has played her own part in steering the women’s game in Kosovo on to a positive path. Between 2005 and 2010 she not only completed her sports degree but also took both the UEFA B and A coaching badges at the same time.
“During this period I managed to reactivate FFC Pristina and helped set up the women’s league in 2010. I was named coach of the women’s national team just a year later.”
Despite this impressive progress, Fazlija also knows that further action is needed to ensure that women’s football continues to develop in her homeland well into the future.
“Over the next four years we need to increase the number of clubs further so that there is at least one club in every local community,” she said. “We expect to follow that up with additional leagues from U-14 to senior level. On top of all that, we will continue to offer coaching and referee training courses for women and bring more female leaders into the clubs.
“I was a player myself and had to retire for political reasons,” Fazlija continued. “My dream was to compete on the international stage at the two biggest tournaments of all: the European Championships and the World Cup. While I didn’t achieve my dream as a player, I hope I can do so as a coach.”