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"We have the best street footballers in Europe" | TIME ONLINE

Kosovo could qualify for the European Football Championship 2020, plunging Uefa and other participants into a dilemma. The German Michael Nees is currently Technical Director of the Football Association in Kosovo as part of the international sports promotion of the Federal Foreign Office.

TIME ONLINE: Mr. Nees, the Kosovo became a Uefa member only three years ago, now he could qualify for the 2020 European Championship. How is that possible?

Michael Nees: Since the federation has been officially recognized, there is a huge euphoria in the country. You want to show the world who you are. There are still some nations that do not recognize Kosovo as a state, many of them in Europe. Often there are problems with the internationals at the international matches, some countries do not even want to go against Kosovo, for example Russia. This naturally leads to an even greater identification of the players with their country. And: Kosovo has a lot, very many talents. Together with the rekindled euphoria this is a promising basis. Added to this are the talents from the Diaspora who have been trained in foreign junior centers. In the senior national team that's the case with most players, but they totally identify with Kosovo. If Kosovo would come up with a team that brought all the players up here in the country, the results would certainly be different.

TIME ONLINE: How much potential is there in Kosovar football?

Nees: A huge potential in all areas, I see that every day. Our association building, for example, is fully utilized, but the expansion is already planned. No people can be hired at the moment because we have no room in the offices. Even sporty, the potential is far from exhausted. We have the best street footballers in Europe, maybe even the last ones. Talent and ambition are there, but the athletic infrastructure is still capable of improvement.


Michael Nees, 52, previously worked as National Trainer or Technical Director in Japan, Rwanda, South Africa, Israel and the Seychelles.
© Kosovar Football Federation

TIME ONLINE: What are your responsibilities as Technical Director?

Nees: I am here on behalf of the international sport promotion and should bring the federation technically-structurally on forefront. In many areas it was started at zero. So here you did not have to tear down walls, but could start with the construction immediately. The priorities are mainly the coach education, the junior and the grassroots promotion. In terms of structure, we are still far behind other nations, but the results of the national team can still be seen. The responsibility should now be distributed step by step to the people we have trained. The goal of my work is actually that I eventually become superfluous.

TIME ONLINE: What is the biggest challenge?

Nees: I want to get people here in the country to realize their potential in football. On the one hand, we try to integrate the diaspora players into our bandage system, on the other hand, we have to give the people on the ground a perspective. Almost every player or coach has relatives abroad and could somehow live there. But you should realize that you are in good hands here in order to realize your dreams. Without the support of Germany, but also the Fifa and Uefa, that would not be possible.

TIME ONLINE: What does football mean for the population?

Nees: Kosovo is a real football country, you can feel it. The people are totally football crazy. Especially the junior players are very ambitious and are strongly supported by their families. Some players or coaches I almost have to slow down in their ambition.

TIME ONLINE: What can football do in Kosovo?

Nees: The football can do that nation building and drive the identification with the country. But he can also be a pioneer in the structure of the country and show what is possible with a good attitude, will and a bit of talent. In Kosovo, relationships still play a major role in everyday life and in the professional world. We want to play with the Football Association on how to work fairly and transparently. Football can play a pioneering role here.

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