“Football is football and the rules of football are set by FIFA. The rules of recognition [de Estados] They are set by International Law ”, responded last Monday the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, about the match between Spain and Kosovo in the qualifying phase of the Qatar World Cup that this Wednesday takes place in Seville.
The Spanish Government has had to make bobbins to avoid a diplomatic conflict and a reprimand by FIFA and UEFA, but also not give up a millimeter in its refusal to recognize the unilateral independence of the former Serbian province, in which many see an example to follow for the dreams of Catalan separatism.
Finally, in accordance with the rules of the international football federations, at the La Cartuja stadium the flag will wave and the anthem that the Kosovo Football Federation has contributed to FIFA to represent it will sound: and that they are none other than the flag and the national anthem of the State whose existence Spain does not recognize. That will be all, since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has supervised the entire process to avoid going one step beyond what is strictly necessary: in the official forms and by public address the terms of the Kosovo Football Federation, Kosovo territory (a denomination that infuriated the visiting team when it was used in a tweet of the Spanish team on March 9) or, more likely, Kosovo to dry. In no case, Republic of Kosovo, official name of the country.
The most laborious part of preparing for the meeting has been the consular one. The non-recognition of a State implies the non-acceptance of their passports, which is why the Foreign Ministry has had to arrange special visas so that the Kosovar team can travel to Seville. Some of its members have a passport from another country that is recognized by Spain, so in these cases there was no problem; For those who only have a Kosovar passport, a separate sheet visa has been issued, so that Spanish customs officers do not have to stamp their passports.
In addition, Foreign Affairs has supervised the list of visitors so that the delegation is limited to the sports team and its technical support, about 30 people in total, preventing a high-ranking official from a government that Spain does not recognize from sneaking in. Among the rejected visas was that of a military policeman posing as a prop for the Kosovar team.
All these problems could have been avoided if Spain had expressed its willingness not to be in the same qualifying group as Kosovo, as Serbia did. The sources consulted assure that this veto right can only be claimed with respect to a national team and Spain has already used it to avoid having to compete with Gibraltar (group G). Compared to the British colony, Kosovo was, diplomatically speaking, a lesser evil. It so happens that of the four teams that are part of the same group as the former Serbian province, only one, Sweden, recognizes its independence.