Kosovo draw with Haiti on international bow

Six years after declaring independence from Serbia, Kosovo drew 0-0 in a friendly match with Haiti in their FIFA-approved debut on the international stage.

But even without a single goal scored, more than 17,000 fans at the Adem Jashari stadium frenetically applauded their squad playing in blue and white jerseys.

"It was fantastic, although if we had scored, everything would have been perfect," goalkeeper Samir Ujkani told reporters after the match.

The match against Haiti overcame a long impasse that saw Kosovar teams in all sports internationally isolated after Pristina unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008.

The breakaway territory is recognised as a new state by more than 100 countries, including the United States and 23 out of 28 European Union member states, but not by Serbia or its traditional ally Russia.

Serbia has been fiercely opposing Pristina's membership in the United Nations. As a consequence, Kosovo are also unable to join football's world governing body FIFA and many other international sporting organisations.

However, on 13 January, FIFA's emergency committee gave Kosovo's national team the green light to play matches following lobbying by Fadil Vokrri, the chairman of Kosovo's Football Federation, and long negotiations with Serbian football officials.

Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga and prime minister Hashim Thaci joined the players on the pitch ahead of the start of the match, shaking hands with the squad amid lavish fireworks.

"You cannot miss such an event," 21-year-old student Shpend Gashi said, wrapped in a Kosovo flag. This was not an ordinary match, this was history."

Kosovo were not allowed to fly their national flag or play their anthem before the match on FIFA's request to prevent Serbia from opposing the decision.

But this did not prevent the fans from waving Kosovo flags and symbols.

"I am extremely happy," 53-year-old Arsim Bejtullahu said. "It was the first time in my life I was able to chant 'Kosovo, Kosovo' for my national team."