Sports, particularly football, is proving to be an effective instrument of bringing together members of the international peace keeping troops in Kosovo (KFOR) and the local youth, irrespective of their ethnic background. A large tournament was held in the summer of 2009 in the municipalities of Prizren, Suva Reka, Mališevo, and Orahovac, which house the mission's of Multinational Task Force South.
The competition included a team of local KFOR members, whose commander, Brigadier General Benedikt Zimmer, has said that football and other sports games are a symbol of cooperation between the mission and Kosovo's population. The football cup -- organized by the Task Force South -- featured the local KFOR team and one team from each municipality. In the finale, Suva Reka competed against Orahovac, and ultimately took home the trophy. For the President of the Dragas Municipality, Salim Jenuzi, this event was yet another opportunity for socializing with the international peacekeepers.
According to him, the locals both respect and gladly cooperate with them. Jenuzi stressed that the Turkish KFOR members who are present in his municipality have staged many football and other sports events that engage the majority Albanian population as well as Goranians and Bosniaks. Interestingly enough, these Turkish peacekeepers include several first-team players from their country's second football league. Jenuzi says that such competitions, together with the mission's assistance, have done much to alleviate and improve life in his poverty-stricken municipality. He believes that football has become yet another link between the locals and the KFOR members.
What is more, Jenuzi says this situation is echoed throughout Kosovo. KFOR's leadership has also emphasized that all KFOR commands in Kosovo have contributed to building sports fields and halls, which are used by school children and other local people. "We are here to ensure a better life for the people of Kosovo, both through the security and the aid we provide. Sports activities, of which football is the most popular, are one more way in which we are fulfilling our mandate by earning the trust of the people and building mutual understanding," the press officers of the Turkish KFOR say.
KFOR has helped Kosovo schools in acquiring equipment and learning aids, and has also assisted the construction of necessary infrastructure, such as water supply and sewage systems as well as sports fields. According to data from the mission's Chief Command, KFOR has contributed over EUR3 billion to Kosovo's development, in labour and funds.
* Under UNSCR 1244/1999