A look inside the places that house Kosovo sport, including both its history and future.
These are the homes of Kosovo sport. They are often humble places. Negligible investment for nearly two decades have left Kosovo’s sporting infrastructure in an often makeshift condition. Kosovo’s athletes have had to train in far from ideal surroundings; its fans have had to brave the elements in order to support their clubs.
Despite this, they are still special places. Champions have been created here, even Olympic champions, and years of sporting memories have been housed inside; last minute championship victories, famous derby wins, record breaking times. Kosovo sport has not been on hold, even if its homes have not been renovated in a while.
The landscape is beginning to change. Investment in infrastructure by the government’s Department of Sport has skyrocketed in recent years. This might be the last glimpse of pre-recognition Kosovar sport, the moment before everything changes. The transition period is already beginning, and could be a bumpy ride.
Finding a home for football
The Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) was accepted into UEFA and FIFA in May 2016. Shortly after, its men’s national team was placed into qualifying Group I for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with matches starting in September 2016.
However, the team are yet to find a place to call home. Its first two FIFA sanctioned friendlies were played at the Adem Jashari stadium in Mitrovica way back in 2014, whilst other friendlies had been played in Prishtina, Geneva and Frankfurt. So far, Kosovo’s only ‘home’ World Cup qualifier was played in Shkoder in Albania, with March’s upcoming match against Iceland and June’s game with Turkey both also scheduled to take place there.
Huge amounts of the Department of Sport’s budget have been put into renovating both the Adem Jashari Stadium in Mitrovica and the City Stadium in Prishtina, though neither will be the ultimate home for the Kosovo national football team. In 2016, the government announced plans for the construction of a new national stadium, for which 23 million euros of public money will also be spent.
Meanwhile for Kosovo’s club sides, licensing issues prevented participation in UEFA competitions in the 2016/17 season. The FFK announced in February 2017 that matches in UEFA competitions during the 2017/18 season would take place in the Adem Jashari stadium, but a month later, a visiting UEFA inspector was reported to be unhappy with the state of the stadium. There are fears that Kosovo’s teams might miss out on UEFA competition again due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure.
The Palace of Youth and Sports
A remnant of Yugoslavia in the center of Prishtina, the Palace of Youth and Sports was opened in 1977, and initially named Boro and Ramiz, after two Partisan soldiers: Boro Vukmirovic and Ramiz Sadiku, a Serb and an Albanian.
On February 26, 2000 a fire destroyed half of the complex, including the Great Hall, which was able to house 8,000 spectators. The Great Hall still lies disused other than as a parking lot, though the remainder of the building is still utilized for many sports. The Small Hall has hosted Kosovo’s national handball teams, as well Prishtina Basketball club, who have won 11 Kosovo Super League titles and two Balkan International Basketball League titles with the hall as their home venue.
Inside the complex are also facilities for table tennis, boxing and paintball.