Kosovo threaten to withdraw from Spain game unless flag, anthem respected

·2-min read

(Reuters) - Kosovo's national football federation has threatened to withdraw from its upcoming World Cup qualifier away to Spain later this month if it is not allowed to display its flag or play its national anthem before kickoff.

Spain is one of five European Union countries which does not officially recognise Kosovo as an independent state, along with Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus and Romania.

Newspaper Marca said the Spanish state's position on Kosovo meant the two countries' flags could not be displayed together before the game, due to be held at Seville's La Cartuja stadium on March 31, and the music played would not be described as Kosovo's national anthem.

Kosovo's federation had lashed out at Spain's football association in a statement on its official website on Tuesday after the Spain team's Twitter account had referred to Kosovo as a territory in a post about its upcoming qualifiers.

The statement said Kosovo would insist on playing its anthem and displaying its flag, declaring "otherwise, the game will not take place".

It also said it had written to the Spanish federation and would take the matter up with UEFA to "seek protection" from Europe's governing body, which it joined in 2016 along with FIFA.

The Spanish football federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Kosovo federation said Spain calling Kosovo a territory was a "provocation" and "unacceptable", adding it was "an independent state, recognised by the majority of developed and democratic countries around the world".

"The approach of the Spanish state towards the state of Kosovo has unfortunately been destructive since the declaration of Independence on February 17, 2008. But this approach cannot change history and reality," added the statement.

The Twitter post Kosovo had taken issue with remained on the Spain team's Twitter account in the early hours of Wednesday.

Spain's minister for foreign affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya acknowledged when the World Cup qualifying draw was made in December that the country did not recognise Kosovo as a state, adding the government would work alongside FIFA ahead of the match.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)