Soccer-Kosovo’s Prishtina lends players to rivals for Europa League match
PRISTINA, Aug. 20 (Reuters) – Kosovo football club FC Prishtina have taken the unprecedented move to sign players on loan from rival sides for a match to play in a Europa League qualifier, have confirmed the club and the national federation.
Prishtina’s qualifying match against Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps, scheduled for last Tuesday, was postponed after eight players tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Gibraltar.
The match was supposed to end in an automatic 3-0 victory for Lincoln, but Prishtina was so determined to see what happened that he used UEFA’s special rules to get players from rival teams.
Article 1.2 of Annex I to the UEFA regulations, entitled “Special rules applicable to the qualifying phase and the eliminations due to COVID-19”, allows a match to be rescheduled if fewer than 13 players are available.
A club can then field players not registered with UEFA, provided that these players are registered with their national association. Players must also test negative for the virus.
UEFA declined to comment further on the transfers.
“FC Prishtina publicly thank the teams of Feronikel, Llapi, Trepca 89, Flamurtar, Balkans, Drenica and Vushtrri who urgently assisted Prishtina,” the club said in a statement on Facebook.
“Since UEFA’s admission, Prishtina has received a very positive reaction from our country’s teams, as success in Europe helps everyone in football in Kosovo.”
Bajram Shala, communications officer for the Kosovo National Federation, told Reuters on Thursday that players registered for the match were awaiting test results in Prishtina and would travel to Gibraltar if they tested negative.
The players would then undergo further tests in Gibraltar ahead of Saturday’s game.
Prishtina are the second Kosovo team to have a game called off following the suspension of FC Drita’s Champions League qualifying match against Linfield of Northern Ireland due to the positive test of two Drita players.
Drita had to forfeit and Linfield took a 3-0 victory.
If Prishtina’s experiment of loaning out players is successful, other teams could do the same if their matches are threatened by positive tests, with coronavirus cases increasing again across Europe. (Reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Prishtina, writing and additional reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)