BERNE (Reuters) - Kosovo were given permission to field former Albanian internationals Samir Ujkani and Alban Meha and ex-Norway player Valon Berisha on Monday, hours before their first-ever competitive international.
The trio were authorised to switch allegiances by FIFA’s Player Status Committee, a spokesperson said.
They have played competitive internationals and would not normally be allowed to change teams, but FIFA opened an exception for Kosovo as its federation was accepted as a member of soccer’s governing body only in May.
Kosovo were due to play Finland away on Monday in a World Cup qualifier. Finland’s Kosovo-born midfielder Perparim Hetemaj has said he would not play in the match.
FIFA said it had authorised 12 other players to join Kosovo, although this appeared to be a formality as none had played competitive senior internationals for another team.
They included Bersant Celina who played for Norway at youth level and is on loan at Dutch club Twente Enschede from Manchester City.
Ujkani, who plays for Italian Serie B team Pisa on loan from Genoa, won 20 caps for Albania and played in 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Euro 2012 qualifiers.
The 28-year-old, who was raised in Belgium and has spent his entire professional career in Italy, has since lost his place in the team to Etrit Berisha.
Meha, 30, was raised in Germany and won seven caps for Albania, the last in a Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Serbia in October.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and faced strong opposition from Belgrade in its bid to join European soccer body UEFA and then FIFA.
Midfielder Berisha, 23, made 20 appearances for Norway, including some in World Cup qualifiers. He was born in Sweden to Kosovar immigrants but was raised in Norway.
Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ed Osmond