Bosnia-Kosovo engage in sports dispute that turned political

Bosnia-Kosovo engage in sports dispute that turned political

The FIBA European Championship U16 Division B was supposed to be a sport event only, held in Sarajevo, but was transformed into a first class political issue, with Kosovo kids and the BiH Minister of Foreign Affairs on each of the problem’s sides.

Yesterday, August 9, the scheduled BiH-Kosovo basketball game did not take place as Kosovo players did not received their visas on time. The BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed what happened saying that visa applications did not reach the Ministry the right moment. On the other hand, the BiH Basketball Union stated that the procedure was respected with all documents having been submitted on time so that the young players could get their visas and travel to Bosnia. But, according to Ministry, this was not the only problem.

“On August 9, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH received an additional statement from the BiH Basketball Federation, and one could understand that there is no agreement on the participation of the selection of Kosovo in the Championship. That was confirmed in direct talks with some members of the highest institutions of the Basketball Association of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Basketball Association of Republika Srpska. In these talks, the representatives of Republika Srpska expressed their opposition to the participation of the team from Kosovo at the current European basketball championship that is being held in Sarajevo”,  reads the statement.

The competent Ministry’s press service explained that Kosovo’s Volleyball Team participated in the recent tournament in Bijeljina without any problems since the document were submitted to the players and the people of the team at the right time and no one objected to their participation. In this case, as they said, the Ministry should not be held responsible for the dispute with the BiH Basketball Association.

Now, it is up to minister Crnadak to solve the matter.

BiH has not recognised Kosovo as a independent state and, therefore, it also does not recognise the country’s associations as state institutions. However, three years ago, Kosovo became a member of FIBA so all its players of all categories have the right to participate in all competitions organised by FIBA.

The BiH Basketball Association officials expect the reaction of FIBA and warn that possibly, FIBA will punish BiH for the way it handled things.

“We call on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by minister Crnadak, to authorise the issuing of visas for the basketball team of Kosovo so its players can travel to BiH in order to prevent a disastrous near future that looms over the Basketball Federation of BiH”, the Basketball Association of BiH announced.

Elvira Dushku, the secretary-general of Kosovo Basketball Federation (FBK) said earlier that the participation of its youth basketball players in a European championship in Sarajevo was under threat due to visa issues.

“Despite the fact that we have sent all the necessary documents in time, we only received a green light from the embassy to apply on Tuesday, only after we informed FIBA that things are not going in the right direction”, Dushku said.

Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed regrets about the delay on Wednesday, telling Sarajevo authorities “not to confuse sports with politics”.

In a statement, it said what has been mentioned before in the article and is of major importance: “Kosovo became a full member of FIBA more than three years ago and attempts to put up political hurdles, aimed at endangering Kosovo’s participation in this sports event… violate the basic European principle of freedom of movement and [FIBA’s] rules itself.”…. / IBNA