Well, you can’t very well have a Serbian tennis star eating up all the limelight — highlighting Djokovic’s terror as a child practicing the sport under falling NATO bombs — without an Albanian hijacking the narrative.

Helping make that happen was New Jersey’s Bergen Record last month. In addition to media in the Albanian-heavy New York tri-state area knowing what’s good for them, what can one expect? After all, we’re talking about JERseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey! Not much deep thinking there. This one comes complete with all the hack drama that reporters love:

Tennis: FDU standout fled war-torn Kosovo (Dec. 27, by Jeff Roberts)


STEVE HOCKSTEIN/SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
Egzona Morina was 4 when her family fled the Kosovo War. She took up tennis in Belgium before moving to the U.S.

The darkness was their only cover as they fled into the Balkan night.

They huddled together — a mother, father and young daughter — in a strange car with no seats except for the driver. Their hastily packed suitcases served as cushions. And fake documents served as hope — the hope that they could be smuggled out of Kosovo.

Little Egzona Morina tried to make sense of it all as she hid beneath the hood of her sweat shirt — the only shield her parents could provide. Her family suddenly had been forced from its home. Everyone was crying. And panic hung heavily around them.

Then only 4, she did not know that the Serbians already had taken her parents’ jobs and personal documents, trying to erase their identity, their heritage and their education. [Some thick projection there.]

The only thing left to take was their lives.

“They basically wanted to just either kill everybody or you work for them,” Egzona said. “Everything was being taken over by Serbians.” [A bit of inversion there.]

Those hazy images still remain with her — memories captured through the eyes of a frightened girl and now recalled by the 21-year-old FDU tennis player she grew up to become.

The memories of a woman who dreams that one day she will help heal her country. [Good luck with that!]

And tennis has made that dream possible, bringing Egzona to FDU and America to study psychology. [Nothing ironic there. She should start with a case study called the Albanian mentality.]

The Morinas were part of the forced exodus of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo in the Serbian campaign [sic] of ethnic cleansing [sic] in the 1990s that killed at least 11,000 [sic] and forced 700,000 from their homes.

Egzona escaped the war, but has witnessed the scars her country and its people still carry.

She envisions opening a free mental health clinic in the capital city of Pristina — her home — to help those still suffering from invisible wounds. [She’s got her work cut out for her.]

And a plot of land sits waiting for her to build that clinic. For her 20th birthday, her parents, Xheladin Morina and Xhufe Bacaj-Morina, bought her property for its future site.

And first, Egzona will serve as the Knights’ captain, their No. 2 or 3 singles player, and part of their No. 2 doubles team when her season resumes in February.

The 2011-12 All-NEC No. 5 singles player was named NEC Player of the Month for September after winning Flight B at the Army Invitational.

The Morinas arrived first in Switzerland, then Belgium, settling in the small town of Schoten, just outside Antwerp.

“We were in this apartment with a mattress and this broken TV,” Egzona said of their first Belgian home. “That’s all we had.”

They watched the war engulf Kosovo on TV, aching for the dozens of family members left behind.

“I would hear my mom cry because her family was still there,” Egzona said. [Whereas the Serbs in Kosovo are unable to produce tears.]

Life in a new country also was difficult after the Serbs incinerated the Morinas’ degrees, identification and other documents — even their marriage certificate and Xhufe’s birth certificate. [And the reporter knows these were necessarily incinerated, rather than got lost or otherwise destroyed, because he believes every word coming out of the family’s mouth. Just like Ryan Seacrest simply nodded his head and didn’t question the Albanian contestant two seasons ago, when she said how the Serbs were “trying to kill everyone.”]

Xheladin — once a construction engineer and director of his company — had been reduced to manual labor in Belgium. Xhufe — an electrical engineer — was forced to clean toilets. [The immigrant experience that every Albanian stuck in “liberated” Kosovo yearns for.]

Her father introduced her to tennis to try to integrate her. The plan didn’t work, but they discovered Egzona had talent. She would rise to the Belgian national team. […]

Just when the Morinas had you thinking that all the Albanians have been ethnically cleansed from Kosovo by those dastardly Serbs, somehow there’s still enough of them to form a soccer team. Imagine: Not even a country, but already slated for not just EU, NATO, IMF, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (Dec.), and UN membership, but already on its way to FIFA membership:

2018 World Cup stadiums approved; Kosovo in (Saudi Press Agency, Dec. 27)

FIFA approved the stadiums for the start and end of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and confirmed Kosovo as a new team at its final executive committee meeting of the year on Friday, AP reported.

Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow was approved for the opening match, one semifinal and the final while World Cup Stadium in St. Petersburg was okayed for the other semi.

The executive also agreed to implement the decision to allow FIFA member associations to play international friendlies with teams from Kosovo, which is not a member of FIFA. The decision includes youth, amateur, women’s and club football.

Kosovo has been out of world football since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, because its sovereignty has not been recognized by the United Nations.

Helping Kosovo along all these steps to maturity — as well as to independence itself — is the tried and true Albanian skill of bribing:

Kosovo bribed FIFA president to become member (Macedonian International News Agency, Dec. 24)

Kosovo knows how to do business. It has bribed virtually every single nation that recognized the recently formed country and has numerous US and EU politicians on its payroll.

Belgrade daily “San” informed that several Albanian millionaires have paid (bribed) FIFA president Sepp Blatter 17 million euros in order for Kosovo to become a FIFA member.

The newspaper uncovers details of the ‘plan’ for Kosovo to become a member of the coveted world football body. At first the small Balkan province would be allowed to play friendlies and then it would be allowed to enter the 2018 WC qualifications in Russia.

“Kosovo’s PM Hashim Thaci has given instructions to numerous Albanian millionaires to ’support’ FIFA, this included the gala party in Zurich where the best football player was selected and was entirely financed by Albanians.

It is perhaps no surprise that Fadilj Vokri, the president of Kosovo’s Football Federation in an interview for Croatian media appeared fully confident, stating that his country would enter FIFA very soon.

Again, what other country gets talk of all these international memberships before it’s even a country? Just to help make it such.

The question now is: So who will Albania’s Albanians root for? Who will Kosovo Albanians root for? Yet another identity crisis for Albanians! Until that impending unification happens, of course. What a charade they’ll have to play ’til then. Of course, there could be so many bitter fights over soccer matches in the interim that it could put a fork in the whole Albanian unity thing, derailing the formation of their unified Greater Albanian state. If anything has that kind of divisive power, it’s sports.

As early as 2011, “Kosovars” were making progress with international sports federations, it seems. They were making moves toward the 2012 Olympics:

Kosovo in race against time to make it to start-line for London 2012 (June 9, 2011)

…[Nineteen-year-old Majlinda] Kelmendi…won gold at the World Junior Championships, gold at the European Judo Championships and is currently ranked fifth in the world in the Olympic rankings.

However…[politics] stand in the way of the young star fulfilling her dream of going to an Olympic Games.

The story is long and complex but it began when Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

The act was rejected by the Government in Belgrade and not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council because of opposition from Russia and China.

Its autonomy has since been recognised by 75 countries to date, including the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Britain.

But the key for Kosovo is to have at least five international federations that recognise the Kosovo Sports Federation in order to be eligible to gain membership from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“We already have four international federations that recognise the Kosovo Sports Federation,” Besim Hasani, President of the Kosovo Olympic Committee (KOC), [told] insidethegames as we spoke at a hotel in London.

“The International Table Tennis Federation has recognised us since 2003, the European Handball Federation since 2004, the International Weightlifting Federation since 2008 and also the International Federation of Wrestling since 2008.

“We are also provisional member of the International Archery Federation and we hope they [will] recognise us fully soon but as it stands, we are still looking for one more international federation to recognise us to fulfill this technical criteria.

“Once we have this, our National Olympic Committee can apply for recognition from the IOC.

“Then it [is] up to the IOC Executive Committee to decide. We put our trust in them and we must hope that they do the right thing. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. There are many young people who have come from the war in our country and have such horrible experiences.

“I remember when the international judo federation came to Kosovo and saw the talent of our athletes they allowed the athletes to compete at European and World Championship level under the international judo flag. What happened? Majlinda Kelmendi went to the European Championships and became European champion. Majlinda Kelmendi went to the World Junior Championships and became world junior champion.

“But if our National Olympic Committee is not recognised, our athletes will not go to the London 2012 Olympics, even though they could win a gold medal there…If we are allowed to compete at London 2012, I am 100 per cent sure that we will have a minimum of one medal with Majlinda Kelmendi…The clock to 2012 is ticking though so we need help fast.

“So I beg the IOC Executive Committee, I beg IOC President Jacques Rogge to help us. To use the power of the Olympic Games and of sport to help those from a war torn country, those in need, to overcome their troubles.”

And a similar story, concerning the World Cup:

Team Kosovo, Made in New York (By Christopher Belac, June 7, 2011)

Every four years soccer fans all over the world re-establish their sense of patriotism and national pride through the World Cup. But not only do many nations not qualify for the global party, some don’t even have a team that can attempt to qualify. Such is the fate of Kosovo.

[And as we know, if there’s one thing that Albanians are lacking in, it’s a sense of patriotism.]

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but is not yet recognized by the United Nations and its soccer federation is not recognized by FIFA. So Kosovar soccer as an international entity remains in limbo.

[Kosovar soccer. They really just said that.]

But that doesn’t mean a Kosovo team can’t play in New York. Zef Kabashi, a first generation Kosovar-American [Kosovar-American. They really just said that.] and a familiar face on the New York soccer scene, has organized a Kosovo team to compete in this year’s Cosmos Copa NYC. It’s a sort of World Cup of New York that has grown to become a major tournament in the city.

“Kosovo hasn’t been accepted by FIFA, it hasn’t been accepted by UEFA. For this tournament to accept Kosovo, it would be a big deal and a start in the right direction,” Kabashi said. “I think everything starts here in New York City. This is the world’s capital and anything that starts here can spill over across the ocean.”

[Like the song says: If you can fake it there, you can fake it anywhere.]

Kosovo is one of 22 “national teams” vying for eight spots in the main draw of the Copa NYC…

To Kabashi, the short-term symbolism of this team is part of his greater vision for the Kosovar community in New York.

[The Kosovar community. They really said that.]

“I hope to bring everybody together. That’s the goal,” he said. “Whether it be from Staten Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, or Long Island, we want to bring the community together and from this point on start a development program for younger players.”

[Because if there’s one thing that”Kosovars”are lacking in, it’s togetherness.]

There are parallels, however, between Kosovar soccer in New York and internationally. Players who elected to play for Kosovo in this year’s Cosmos Copa NYC had a difficult decision to make, the same decision many ethnic Albanian players from Kosovo who play professionally will have to make. If Kosovo were to be recognized by FIFA, it could change the landscape of several national teams across Europe; including Albania, Switzerland and Finland, all of whom currently feature Albanians of Kosovar descent on their rosters.

“When I thought about entering the tournament in 2010, I hesitated because I did not want the feeling of separation from Albania,” said Kabashi. “I submitted the application for entrance into the tournament this time around for Albanians from Kosovo because I thought the people of this war-torn, now considered the youngest country in Europe, should be recognized.” [Uh-oh, the fault lines emerge.]

“Playing for Albania was a proud moment, it was a great moment. Playing now for Kosovo is an intense moment because of everything that’s happened over the years,” said Kabashi. “My parents were born there and they lived off of that land. I think I speak on behalf of all the players that are playing for Kosovo this year; it’s going to be a proud moment, but an emotional moment. This is for home.”

While it may be years before this young nation has a chance to compete internationally, the spirit is getting a kick start from its diaspora. […]

It’s not the only thing that’s gotten a kick-start from the diaspora. Non-Albanians in Kosovo are still feeling the last kick, indeed a kick felt ’round the world.