Adnan Januzaj – MUFC, Belgium, Albania and the Kosovo Diaspora

  • Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 09.21.34This is an update to a piece we published on Adnan Januzaj earlier this year.

Januzaj’s continued emergence at Manchester United has intensified questions about his international future.

Born in Belgium to Kosovan parents Januzaj has thus far declined offers to represent the country of his birth.  He is eligible to play for Albania and also Kosovo – who have yet to receive full competitive status from FIFA and UEFA.

We asked Kosovo Football Federation (FFK) General Secretary Eroll Salihu about Januzaj’s situation.

 “Only the player can decide where to play and we will respect any his decision. We cannot ignore the fact that the player has Belgium statehood and also is Albanian Nationality, it’s depend only from him a[n]d his family,” he said.

“We would be happy if FIFA and UEFA admitted FFK and the player could choose for his country too.  We have contacts with all football players from Kosovo even with the young age groups players, but it would be ungrateful to ask from them to play for our national team now and to prevent them to play for other national teams.”

The FFK stance is admirable but they are caught in a geopolitical storm.  They hope that a decision about their status will be clarified next year and they can begin to offer a viable international future to players qualified to represent them.

Any development is likely to come too late for Januzaj however.  Rumours about his intentions remain and as his profile continues to rise the pressure for him to decide his future intensifies.

Albania are understandably keen to recruit him.  Their squad is filled with players with similar backgrounds to Januzaj.

Captain Lorik Cana of Lazio was one of a group of ten high profile exiled Kosovo-eligible international players who canvassed FIFA pleading for FFK recognition in 2012.

Their wish has yet to be granted.  FIFA has said that Kosovo can play friendlies but not in competitive matches. UEFA require Kosovo to hold full UN status before they can admit them.

The situation is highly complex and goes way beyond the realms of sport.  In addition to FIFA and UEFA, the UN, Russia, the FAs of Albania and Serbia all have views on the emancipation of the Kosovo football team.

Until circumstances change elite level Kosovan players will continue to represent other nations.

Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich and Switzerland is the most high profile footballer from the Kosovo diaspora.  He, along with Granit Xhaka of Borussia Monchengladbach and Valon Behrami, signed the petition handed to FIFA.  Although still hypothetical it is unlikely Switzerland would be happy to see three of its best players join another national team.

Cana is believed to have spoken to Januzaj about playing for Albania.  Until he makes a decision no eventuality can be discounted.

International football is a significant motivation in a footballer’s career but nationality and ethnicity strike far deeper.  For Januzaj, and those like him, the personal is also highly political.

Kosovo will continue to see its footballers representing other nations until it achieves full competitive status.  This is a situation laden with heavy political baggage but lives and careers are being impacted.  UEFA and FIFA must do all they can to end this indecision.  Sport can provide the impetus for political change.

Adnan Januzaj’s international career will help illuminate an area of the very darkest grey.

  • Our original piece of May 5 2013

Adnan Januzaj and the Kosovar Diaspora

Sir Alex Ferguson is not one to hand out praise lightly.  So when he describes a young Manchester United player as “one of the most promising talents we have here,” it is time to pay attention.

While the United boss might not be able to pronounce the name of his latest fledgling it is one that football will soon grow familiar with.  Big things are expected of Adnan Januzaj at Old Trafford.

“I can’t pronounce his name, we just call him Adnan” – Sir Alex Ferguson

Several impressive displays for the United development sides have seen Januzaj awarded the number 44.  The 18 year old is expected to make his senior debut in the not too distant future, perhaps even before the season’s end.

Januzaj was born in Brussels to parents of Kosovan lineage.  He came through the ranks at Anderlecht and there was much umbrage when United took him to Old Trafford two years ago.

“His parents fell for the money of the English team”, said Anderlecht general manager, Herman Van Holsbeeck. “The future will prove them right or wrong.”  United paid the Belgian club a fee reportedly just shy of £300,000 for Januzaj.  It already looks a very good deal for the English club.

Arriving as a finely skilled dribbler United have worked hard on his fitness and strength.  Januzaj now has the physical attributes to allow his prodigious technique to shine at a higher level.

He is a subtle final third player, his game is all about close control, beating opponents when under pressure, and vision.  With big question marks over the futures of Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young it is clear that there are potential gaps to be filled in the attacking positions at Old Trafford.

Wilfried Zaha arrives at United in the summer and coupled with the continued emergence of Shinji Kagawa a tactical shift can be detected in Ferguson’s future plans.  A move away from the pace oriented approach of the current team toward a more proactive, refined style where short passing, individual skill and comfort in possession become more important.  Quick feet as well as fast leg.

It is not hard to see where Januzaj might fit into this game plan.  He is comfortable in most attacking midfield positions but has spent the majority of the last season on the right.  While his current promotion comes as a reward for his performances in the youth ranks it would not be surprising to see Januzaj stake a powerful claim for genuine first team involvement next season.

He is one of four highly promising Belgian born youngsters in the Old Trafford youth ranks.  Marnick Vermijl, Charni Ekangamene and especially, Andreas Pereira, are names worth keeping a very close eye on.

Januzaj has yet to play for any of the Belgium representative sides which raises the question of where his international future lies.  His parents are of Kosovan origin and the Republic of Kosovo has yet to gain full membership of FIFA or UEFA.

Januzaj himself is circumspect on the matter.  “I’ve never played for Belgium at youth level. It will come later, there is no point in rushing. I will just try to do my best for Manchester United and that’s it for now.”

Where he plays his international football will be interesting.  Nationality is at once the most personal and collective of issues, striking at the heart of an individuals identity.

The Kosovar diaspora is spread across far Europe.  There are several notable young players starting to emerge at major European clubs.  Until the politics decide otherwise it is likely that the national teams of other nations will benefit from the situation in Kosovo.

Januzaj is very much a child of his times, representative of the global face of elite football and ethno-geographic struggle in the twenty first century.

Why do some young players make it while others do not? That and other questions are the main focus of this site. Football prodigies, next-big-things, never-quite-were's and yet-may-be's.

'Adnan Januzaj – MUFC, Belgium, Albania and the Kosovo Diaspora' have 21 comments

  1. August 10, 2013 @ 1:51 am Renato

    Simon, except the national team of Kosovo, which I believe it will take too much time to be accepted from Fifa, there is also the choice to play for the Albanian national team. As you might know Kosovo = Albania. Many Kosovarians already play for Albanian, for example Lorik Cana. So I do not understand why you do not point this in your article…

  2. August 10, 2013 @ 1:52 am Renato

    play for Albania*

  3. August 14, 2013 @ 3:41 pm Toni

    Very well said, Renato! Simon fails to aknowledge the most likely scenario of Januzaj actually choosing to represent Albania! I hear his parents are in talks with the Albanian Football Association to make that happen.

  4. September 30, 2013 @ 1:53 pm nightcry

    On all of this said above and in comments – guy is actually of Bosniak ethnicity or Bosnian Muslim if you like !
    Bosniaks constitute about 3% of all population of Kosovo, however almost all Gorani ethnic group identify themselves Bosniaks as well. Being deprived of right to identify themselves as Bosniaks/Bosnians since 1918 and Serbian takeover of entire Yugoslav political and cultural space, Bosnians/Bosniaks of Bosnia, Sandzak, Kosovo and Macedonia were forced to identify themselves as Serbs or Croats in Bosnia and in Serbia/Sandzak, or in Kosovo and Macedonia as Macedonians or Albanians.
    This guy, Adnan Januzaj, if pursued by Bosnian FA could easily accept to play with Dzeko, Pjanic, Ibisevic, Misimovic, Begovic, etc. on World Cup in Brazil, rather then with Albania on the bottom half of their qualification group and European football in general.
    Beside, I found somewhere, maybe a year ago, that his parents are actually already in possession of Bosnian citizenships and passports !
    I am not sure, though.

  5. September 30, 2013 @ 2:25 pm nightcry

    And, by the way, his name is Bosnian, only his surname is pronounced in Albanian – from Junuzovic to Januzaj – which is almost standard, and particularly with Junuzovic surname in Kosovo, always modified this way with pronunciation in Albanian.
    ( Adnan Junuzovic or Januzaj certainly doesn’t sound like Orges Shehi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Gökhan Inler, Ergys Kace, etc ).
    But who knows, Bosnian FA is a lazy and people corrupted drones, and they have a hard time to pursued players with less ambiguous national identity and allegiance, let alone players with triple eligibility !

  6. October 5, 2013 @ 6:22 pm Fidan Reçica

    What the hell did I just read??? You can’t be serious right? No way someone, supposedly from Balkans, can be this uninformed.

  7. October 5, 2013 @ 6:24 pm Fidan Reçica
    Kosovo has over 70% muslim names. Or you’re also claiming there are 70% bosnians living there? You’re level of trolling is very shallow!

  8. October 6, 2013 @ 8:53 am Sagal Ameera WiseOne Deria

    Hello! So I’ve been reading some articles about potential national teams that Adnan can play for and it mentions that both the Croatian and Turkish national teams are trying to get him to play for them which I found odd lol does anyone know how that would be possible for him to play for Turkey or Croatia? Because as far as I understand he’s eligible for Belgium because he was born there and he’s also eligible for Albania because of his ancestry, and he could potentially be qualified for England if he continues living there and doesn’t play for another national team for 5 years but that being said I have absolutely no idea how he would be qualified to play for either Croatia or Turkey. If anyone knows the answer to this I would be curious 🙂 Cheers!

  9. October 6, 2013 @ 2:11 pm gokhan

    ı heard that Januzaj is eligible to represent Belgium through birth, Albania through his parents, Turkey and Serbia through his grandparents. in cosovo there are some turkish people because of ottoman empire and they still live there

  10. October 6, 2013 @ 8:24 pm Sagal Ameera WiseOne Deria

    Oh very interesting 🙂 Thanks for answering!

  11. October 8, 2013 @ 6:30 pm xxx

    Bull shit! Adnan is Arabic name and NOT Bosnian.

  12. October 8, 2013 @ 6:30 pm xxx

    Bull shit! Adnan is Arabic name and NOT Bosnian.

  13. October 9, 2013 @ 11:29 pm al

    there are albanians in turkey. maybe he has relatives there. but i think it’s media bullshit.. but not that he is turk from kosovo or else his parents wouldn’t be albanians and that they try to get him to play for albania. and that he is bosnian?`lol there are bosnians in kosovo, but Januzaj is albanian surname you idiot. albanian names can end in i or qi like krasniqi, shaqiri, and they can end in aj like januzaj, maksutaj, etc. also in a and in e, like morina, or tare. and adnan is muslim name used by albanians

    and he has an option to play for former yugoslavian countries like croatia and serbia because of disputed status of kosovo.. but this is bullshit, it just media writing bullshit. trust me, media 99% of the time they write things that are not true. always false information.. somehow they manage to twist things.

    you people are all crazy :S

  14. October 9, 2013 @ 11:32 pm al

    none of his relatives are serbs or turks. this is bullshit… he is kosovoalbanian from istog. i know because my uncles are also from istog. he can only play for belgium, kosovo or albania. the rest is bullshit… international football is a joke.

  15. October 9, 2013 @ 11:41 pm al

    forced to identify themselves? lmfao. so im a bosniak too? i can go back 300 years and my relatives are still albanians. hahahahahahahah!!!!!!!! and albanians live in sandzak too… most bosnians in sandzak are originally albanians who were slavicized or intermarried with slavs.. most of the old men there can speak albanian. sandzaks are genetically albanians, no doubt.

    turks and bosniaks keep to themselves in kosovo, no one forces them to change their identity. why the hell would albanians force somebody to change identity that still wouldn’t make them albanians it would be smarter to expell them from the country lol.

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