BERNE (Reuters) – Albania captain Lorik Cana and Swiss internationals Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Velon Behrami are among players who have backed Kovoso’s campaign for the right to play international football matches.

The players have signed a declaration which has been sent to FIFA president Sepp Blatter as part of the Football Federation of Kosovo’s (FFK) request for its teams to be allowed to play friendly internationals.

“We fully and unquestionably support the right of football players and clubs from Kosovo to play football internationally,” said the statement, a copy of which was sent to Reuters.

“Kosovo, a country recognised by 91 countries over six continents…and already accepted into international organisations such as the IMF and World Bank…cannot be compared to other territories in Europe and elsewhere currently claiming for a similar participation in international football.

“We commit our support to the Football Federation of Kosovo in this common fight for the implementation of the principles contained in the FIFA statutes: justice, respect, non-discrimination, refusal of political interference and universality of football.”

Bayern Munich winger Shaqiri, Borussia Moenchgladbach midfielder Xhaka, and Lazio pair Behrami and Cana all have Kosovan roots.

Five other Albanian internationals signed the declaration along with German women’s international Fatmire Bajramaj.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 but has yet to gain admission to the United Nations.

FIFA agreed in principle in May to allow its member associations to play friendly matches against teams from Kosovo and is due to decide at a meeting next Thursday how it will implement the ruling.

However, the Serbian FA has protested, saying the decision is against the principle that only countries recognised by the United Nations can be allowed to join FIFA and European soccer’s governing body UEFA.

The FFK has said that it has not applied for full membership, but is now worried that matches involving its teams may be limited to age-restricted games as a compromise.

“The issue of affiliation is not the topic of the day and cannot be used as a pretext to block us from playing or to restrict the scope of this authorisation,” wrote FFK president Fadil Vokrri in a letter to FIFA.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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