England will face no racist abuse when they face Kosovo in a European Qualifier next week, says the president of the country’s football association.
England players were targeted for abuse in Sofia last month, with the Bulgarian federation ordered to play their next home game behind closed doors as punishment, with a further match suspended for a period of two years.
Gareth Southgate will lead his side to face Kosovo in Pristina in their final qualifier next Sunday but Agim Ademi, the head of the Football Federation of Kosovo, says they should not fear a repeat on this trip to eastern Europe.
Ademi referred to the conflict of the late 1990s, when Serbian forces clashed with ethnic Albanians in the territory and highlighted the strong historical bond between Kosovo and England.
“We have no concerns whatsoever [regarding racism],” he told PA Media.
“Kosovo for a very long time has suffered from discrimination. It took decades of effort, suffering and a war in the end to end this discrimination. The roots of racism are in discrimination and as such it is condemned in our society.”
Great Britain was part of the international coalition which forced the Serbians to withdraw and the UK was one of the first countries to recognise the newly-independent Kosovo in 2008.
“England’s role as a country in freeing the people of Kosovo from the oppressive regime of Serbia in 1999 has been instrumental,” Ademi said.
“But not only that, England has become shelter to thousands of Kosovo refugees who were expelled from their homes during the war.
“Every one of them has been in one way or another touched by the heartfelt support and generosity of English citizens.
“Some of these refugees of the time are celebrities of today because England sheltered them, provided education and offered opportunities.”
Rita Ora was born in Pristina and her parents moved to the UK while she was an infant, while fellow pop star Dua Lipa was born in the UK after her parents had left Kosovo.