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Here we go, here we go, here we go

Twenty-four days after Chelsea lifted the trophy in Porto, the Champions League was back – with Kosovan champions Prishtina the first team with reason to celebrate

The 2021/22 Champions League season kicked off just as last season had ended: with a venue change. Covid restrictions meant that the four-team preliminary-round tournament scheduled to take place in the Faroe Islands was switched to Albania, where Kosovan champions FC Prishtina sealed their place in the qualifying rounds for the first time. It was an abrupt end of the road for the champions of the Faroe Islands (HB Tórshavn), Andorra (Inter Club d’Escaldes) and San Marino (Folgore) but, 24 days after Chelsea had lifted the trophy in Porto, the journey towards the 2022 final in St Petersburg had begun.  

If it all feels a far cry from the glamour of the Estàdio do Dragāo, then just think of what Prishtina’s next opponents in the first qualifying round, Ferencváros, achieved last season. Serhiy Rebrov’s Hungarian champions advanced through three qualifying rounds (beating 1967 champions Celtic on the way) and a play-off to reach the group stage, where they kicked off Group G against Barcelona in the Camp Nou, no less. You have to start somewhere – and if you are going to dream, dream big.

Prishtina, playing their first ever matches in the competition some 300km from home, were quickly into their stride. They beat Folgore 2-0 in Elbasan in the semi-finals as D’Escaldes defeated Tórshavn 1-0 in Durrës. The Kosovan side then beat D’Escaldes 2-0 in the final with a pair of goals from Endrit Krasniqi, to add to his strike against Folgore in the semis.

“It was a very important game for the club,” said Krasniqi. “We’ve worked hard all year to come to this point, the pre-qualifier stage. We hope to continue like this and achieve further success.”

This has been a long time coming for Prishtina. Kosovo’s most famous club have won the title 11 times since the nation’s independent league was established in 1991/92, but May’s triumph was their first for eight years. The late Fadil Vokrri, a Kosovan legend, is Prishtina’s most famous figure, a former striker and later sporting director who scored six times in 12 appearances for Yugoslavia. He was also president of the Football Federation of Kosovo when the Balkan country was granted full UEFA and FIFA membership in 2016, and was still in the post when he died of a heart attack two years later. Prishtina’s stadium has since been named after him. The club’s most famous coach, meanwhile, is Ćira Blažević. Thanks in part to Vokrri’s goals, he led Prishtina to promotion to the Yugoslav League top flight in 1985, 13 years before taking Croatia to third place at France ’98.

It was a very important game for the club, We’ve worked hard all year to come to this point, the pre-qualifier stage. We hope to continue like this and achieve further success.
Endrit Krasniqi

But back to the present. Eighty teams from 54 of UEFA’s 55 member associations (the exception being Liechtenstein) will compete in the 2021/22 Champions League, starting with the preliminary round. In three of the past four seasons since that stage was introduced, a Kosovan side has advanced through to the first qualifying round. None, though, have gone beyond that. For current blue-and-whites coach Zekirija Ramadani, the goal is to break new ground.

“Previous Kosovan champions have managed to get through this preliminary round, proving that Kosovan champions belong in the first qualifying round,” he said. “Let’s enjoy this win and then think about the next match. Of course, our next opponents are favourites to win, but that’s an extra motivation to show our quality against Ferencváros. We have to keep our feet on the ground.”  

The 2021/22 Champions League season kicked off just as last season had ended: with a venue change. Covid restrictions meant that the four-team preliminary-round tournament scheduled to take place in the Faroe Islands was switched to Albania, where Kosovan champions FC Prishtina sealed their place in the qualifying rounds for the first time. It was an abrupt end of the road for the champions of the Faroe Islands (HB Tórshavn), Andorra (Inter Club d’Escaldes) and San Marino (Folgore) but, 24 days after Chelsea had lifted the trophy in Porto, the journey towards the 2022 final in St Petersburg had begun.  

If it all feels a far cry from the glamour of the Estàdio do Dragāo, then just think of what Prishtina’s next opponents in the first qualifying round, Ferencváros, achieved last season. Serhiy Rebrov’s Hungarian champions advanced through three qualifying rounds (beating 1967 champions Celtic on the way) and a play-off to reach the group stage, where they kicked off Group G against Barcelona in the Camp Nou, no less. You have to start somewhere – and if you are going to dream, dream big.

Prishtina, playing their first ever matches in the competition some 300km from home, were quickly into their stride. They beat Folgore 2-0 in Elbasan in the semi-finals as D’Escaldes defeated Tórshavn 1-0 in Durrës. The Kosovan side then beat D’Escaldes 2-0 in the final with a pair of goals from Endrit Krasniqi, to add to his strike against Folgore in the semis.

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“It was a very important game for the club,” said Krasniqi. “We’ve worked hard all year to come to this point, the pre-qualifier stage. We hope to continue like this and achieve further success.”

This has been a long time coming for Prishtina. Kosovo’s most famous club have won the title 11 times since the nation’s independent league was established in 1991/92, but May’s triumph was their first for eight years. The late Fadil Vokrri, a Kosovan legend, is Prishtina’s most famous figure, a former striker and later sporting director who scored six times in 12 appearances for Yugoslavia. He was also president of the Football Federation of Kosovo when the Balkan country was granted full UEFA and FIFA membership in 2016, and was still in the post when he died of a heart attack two years later. Prishtina’s stadium has since been named after him. The club’s most famous coach, meanwhile, is Ćira Blažević. Thanks in part to Vokrri’s goals, he led Prishtina to promotion to the Yugoslav League top flight in 1985, 13 years before taking Croatia to third place at France ’98.

It was a very important game for the club, We’ve worked hard all year to come to this point, the pre-qualifier stage. We hope to continue like this and achieve further success.
Endrit Krasniqi

But back to the present. Eighty teams from 54 of UEFA’s 55 member associations (the exception being Liechtenstein) will compete in the 2021/22 Champions League, starting with the preliminary round. In three of the past four seasons since that stage was introduced, a Kosovan side has advanced through to the first qualifying round. None, though, have gone beyond that. For current blue-and-whites coach Zekirija Ramadani, the goal is to break new ground.

“Previous Kosovan champions have managed to get through this preliminary round, proving that Kosovan champions belong in the first qualifying round,” he said. “Let’s enjoy this win and then think about the next match. Of course, our next opponents are favourites to win, but that’s an extra motivation to show our quality against Ferencváros. We have to keep our feet on the ground.”  

The 2021/22 Champions League season kicked off just as last season had ended: with a venue change. Covid restrictions meant that the four-team preliminary-round tournament scheduled to take place in the Faroe Islands was switched to Albania, where Kosovan champions FC Prishtina sealed their place in the qualifying rounds for the first time. It was an abrupt end of the road for the champions of the Faroe Islands (HB Tórshavn), Andorra (Inter Club d’Escaldes) and San Marino (Folgore) but, 24 days after Chelsea had lifted the trophy in Porto, the journey towards the 2022 final in St Petersburg had begun.  

If it all feels a far cry from the glamour of the Estàdio do Dragāo, then just think of what Prishtina’s next opponents in the first qualifying round, Ferencváros, achieved last season. Serhiy Rebrov’s Hungarian champions advanced through three qualifying rounds (beating 1967 champions Celtic on the way) and a play-off to reach the group stage, where they kicked off Group G against Barcelona in the Camp Nou, no less. You have to start somewhere – and if you are going to dream, dream big.

Prishtina, playing their first ever matches in the competition some 300km from home, were quickly into their stride. They beat Folgore 2-0 in Elbasan in the semi-finals as D’Escaldes defeated Tórshavn 1-0 in Durrës. The Kosovan side then beat D’Escaldes 2-0 in the final with a pair of goals from Endrit Krasniqi, to add to his strike against Folgore in the semis.

“It was a very important game for the club,” said Krasniqi. “We’ve worked hard all year to come to this point, the pre-qualifier stage. We hope to continue like this and achieve further success.”

This has been a long time coming for Prishtina. Kosovo’s most famous club have won the title 11 times since the nation’s independent league was established in 1991/92, but May’s triumph was their first for eight years. The late Fadil Vokrri, a Kosovan legend, is Prishtina’s most famous figure, a former striker and later sporting director who scored six times in 12 appearances for Yugoslavia. He was also president of the Football Federation of Kosovo when the Balkan country was granted full UEFA and FIFA membership in 2016, and was still in the post when he died of a heart attack two years later. Prishtina’s stadium has since been named after him. The club’s most famous coach, meanwhile, is Ćira Blažević. Thanks in part to Vokrri’s goals, he led Prishtina to promotion to the Yugoslav League top flight in 1985, 13 years before taking Croatia to third place at France ’98.

It was a very important game for the club, We’ve worked hard all year to come to this point, the pre-qualifier stage. We hope to continue like this and achieve further success.
Endrit Krasniqi

But back to the present. Eighty teams from 54 of UEFA’s 55 member associations (the exception being Liechtenstein) will compete in the 2021/22 Champions League, starting with the preliminary round. In three of the past four seasons since that stage was introduced, a Kosovan side has advanced through to the first qualifying round. None, though, have gone beyond that. For current blue-and-whites coach Zekirija Ramadani, the goal is to break new ground.

“Previous Kosovan champions have managed to get through this preliminary round, proving that Kosovan champions belong in the first qualifying round,” he said. “Let’s enjoy this win and then think about the next match. Of course, our next opponents are favourites to win, but that’s an extra motivation to show our quality against Ferencváros. We have to keep our feet on the ground.”  

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