‘Political drama’ at 2018 Euro Basketball Championship ends after FIBA intervention
13.08.2018By Luca Arfini
Last week, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) had to reschedule Kosovo's group games at the U-16 Basket Championships in Sarajevo, following a delay in issuing visas allegedly due to political reasons.
As explained on FIBA’s official website, all the Kosovan players have now been allowed entry and the games’ tournament have been rescheduled to allow to allow the team to take part in the competition.
“FIBA will carefully review the circumstances of the late issuing of visas to the Kosovo delegation,” FIBA added on their website.
The Kosovo Basketball Federation (FBK) had previously written to FIBA claiming that the Embassy of Bosnia in Skopje refused to issue them visas and therefore they were unable to attend this year Championship.
"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," Elvira Dushku, secretary-general of FBK told Balkan Insight after the team had been promised visas.
A complex political situation
Bosnia does not recognise Kosovo's independence from Belgrade, declared in 2008; and does not recognise the country's associations as state institutions.
Kosovo become a member of FIBA in 2015 obtaining the right for all its players of all categories to participate in all the official competitions organised by the Federation.
On Wednesday, the Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a public statement expressing its deep regrets for the situation, reminding Bosnian authorities not to "confuse sports with politics".
"Kosovo became a full member of FIBA more than three years ago and trying to place political obstacles with the obvious purpose of jeopardising Kosovo's participation in this sports event up to the last minute, not only violates the basic European principle of freedom of movement, but also FIBA's own rules," the ministry said.
Kosovo’s deputy prime minister Enver Hoxhaj also contributed to the debate on Social Media.
“#Bosnia’s visa refusal for #Kosovo U16 to play at European Championship is unacceptable! We call on @FIBA & EU to take immediate measures to stop such discriminating act against 16 years old kids! #Sarajevo is acting w/ #Belgrade directives & this should end now or we‘ll respond,” he tweeted.
The Bosnian response
Bosnian reactions from the Basketball Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (KSBIH) and the Bosnian Foreign Ministry have not been able to clear up the incident completely.
According to the Bosnian Foreign Ministry, they were just following the normal visa procedures but criticized the basket federation’s way of handling the issue.
"The lack of consensus within the KSBIH, concerning the Championship organisation and the Kosovo team’s participation leads to the transfer of potential liability and forces the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to play the role of an arbitrator. The Ministry is not and should not be responsible for any disagreement within sports associations in the country," the Ministry said.
On the other hand, the KSBIH made a public statement the last Thursday in which they claimed that the team's visas were ready and all that was missing was consent from the Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak.
“KSBIH made the necessary measures in order for the Kosovo representation to receive their visas on time to enter our country," the statement says.
Eventually, Kosovo's U16 basketball team was able to play its first game against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday, which ended with the tournament hosts’ victory scoring 115-58.