The first item was sent in by Goran, who wrote, “This report from The Age newspaper (allegedly one of the more reputable Australian newspapers) is meant to be about a sports commentator’s experience at a soccer match in Albania. Seemingly, unbeknown to the reporter, it’s more a confirmation of greater Albania. I don’t even know where to start with this article…it’s like irony on LSD.”

Borders disappear when Albanians play (Sept. 11)

SILLY me. As I walked to the Albania v Sweden World Cup qualifier in Albania’s capital, Tirana, on Saturday night, I thought a national team was made up of people from, well, one country.

But in the Balkans, it seems, the waters are a bit muddier than that. Here, a national team is made up of people from one nation, regardless of where they call home.

And so I discovered that the Albanian national soccer team has five ethnic Albanian blokes from Kosovo playing in it. Despite the fact that in February, Kosovo was declared independent, inasmuch as a country recognised by 46 countries — including the US and Australia — but not recognised by another 36 countries — including Russia and China — is independent.

Which, let’s be honest, isn’t the sort of independence that looks likely to field its own soccer team anytime soon. So what do Kosovo’s five internationals do? Not play at all? Play for Serbia? Fat chance. Or do they play for Albania, because they’re Albanians, after all, just like New Zealanders are Australians. Ermm.

Then what happens if Kosovo does get its own team? Defender Debatik Curri, for one, has declared he will stay in the red and black for reasons of honour: One strong national team is better than two weak ones. Ermm II.

This issue was brought into focus somewhat when my ticket had me seated three rows from the front, on the wing, in the middle of the travelling Kosovar ultras.

They clapped politely when the Swedish national anthem was played — there wasn’t a boo in the house — they proudly waved their new blue-and-gold flag, they sat munching on black sunflower seeds until the floor was a carpet of shells like thousands of discarded flies wings, and they showered abuse on the traitorous Bosnian Zlatan Ibrahimovic, playing for Sweden — who was born and raised in Malmo, Sweden. Now call me radical, but I reckon that makes him a bit more Swedish than a bloke who’s spent his whole life in Kosovo is Albanian.

When the Kosovars, seated together in a block, started mocking the Albanian Albanians for being lesser supporters, I was truly confused. Then the Macedonian-Albanian mob, seated on the left, started chanting at all the other Albanians: “We’re sleeping with your sisters”. Which, given they all holiday at the same beaches, may occasionally be true.

Everyone wore the red and black of the Albanian flag, but you could pick the Albanians actually from Albania — they were the ones not spending the entire match telling everyone else how Albanian they were. And there might be a lesson in that. […]

LOL. So much for the concept of a “Kosovar,” then.

Closing comment from Goran: “Albanians from Kosovo have just been discovered playing for an Albanian soccer team. Wow, here’s a revelation! Naturally, I praise [the writer] for his prowess — greater journalists than he most likely would have failed to notice the steady march toward greater Albania.”

This gives me an opening to bring up the following from the summer:

South Serbia Albanians Divided over Homeland

03 June 2008 A newly independent Kosovo has left ethnic Albanians in south Serbia soul-searching on whether Pristina can out do Albania as the centre of their national conscience.

Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17 has contributed to the dilemma among Albanians living in Presevo and Bujanovac whether to look at Kosovo or Albania as their fatherland.

Shaqir Shaqiri, a former ethnic Albanian rebel commander from the Presevo valley, site of a 2000-2001 uprising against Serbian authorities, has no doubts.

“The homeland of the Albanians of Presevo Valley has been and is the Republic of Albania,” he says.

“The state of Kosovo was not the goal of the centuries-long efforts and wars that were fought by Albanians. We were, are and will remain Albanians, whether we are from Presevo, or whether we come from Prishtina, Tetovo, Ulcinj, Tirana, Arta or Preveza.”

Unlike Shaqiri, who dreams about Greater Albania, most Kosovo Albanians and leaders in Tirana dismiss the idea as unlikely, and few foresee the possibility of such a concept ever being acceptable to the international community, let alone to Serbia and other countries in the region which have minority Albanian populations.

Mufail Limani, a Pristina-based analyst says he does not believe “in the concept of homeland,” but added that “geographic, economic, social and family ties objectively link the (Presevo) Valley to Kosovo.”

“Therefore in this case Kosovo should play the role of an international protector of national interests of the Albanian community living in Presevo Valley,” Limani said.

When pressed, even an advocate of a greater Albania like Shaqiri, sees Brussels as the best way forward, at least in the mid-term.

Albania and Kosovo “have optimal chances for cooperation in all spheres of life, like social, political, economic, cultural and educational. Albanians of Presevo Valley can only hope that very soon both will be part of the European Union and the UN,” he says.

Arben, a 40 old citizen of Presevo says he has no dilemma that “Albania is the homeland of Albanians,” he said.

But Sokol, a 30 year old entrepreneur from the southern Serbian town of Medvedja puts it differently “Albania is the homeland and Kosovo is and will remain the spiritual land of Albanians,” he said.