Kosovo were given permission to field former Albanian internationals Samir Ujkani and midfielder Alban Meha on Monday, hours before their first-ever competitive international.
Goalkeeper Ujkani and midfielder Meha were both authorised to switch allegiances by FIFA’s Player Status Committee while several other similar requests were still pending, a FIFA spokesperson told Reuters
Both have played competitive internationals for Albania and would not normally be allowed to change national teams, however FIFA opened an exception for Kosovo as its federation was accepted as a member of football’s governing body only in May.
Kosovo were due to play Finland away on Monday in a World Cup qualifier. Finland’s Kosovo-born midfielder Perparim Hetemaj has said he would not play in the match.
Ujkani, who plays for Italian Serie B team Pisa on loan from Genoa, won 20 caps for Albania and played in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and 2012 Euro qualifiers.
The 28-year-old, who was raised in Belgium and has spent his entire professional career in Italy, has since lost his place in the team to Etrit Berisha.
Meha, 30, was raised in Germany and won seven caps for Albania, the last of which was in the Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Serbia last October.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and faced strong opposition from Belgrade in its bid to join European soccer body UEFA and then FIFA.