Sheffield Wednesday: Atdhe Nuhiu’s ready for what could be a memorable night for his country Kosovo

Atdhe Nuhiu has been called up to play for the country of his birth, Kosovo
Atdhe Nuhiu has been called up to play for the country of his birth, Kosovo

Atdhe Nuhiu could, tonight, fulfil an ambition... to play for the country of his birth.

While the Sheffield Wednesday striker once held dreams of playing for Austria, having grown up there and represented them at youth level up to under 21s, there was forever a hope that one day he would be able to turn out for Kosovo.

Owls pair of Atdhe Nuhiu and Barry Bannan pose for a picture  Pic :Steve Ellis

Owls pair of Atdhe Nuhiu and Barry Bannan pose for a picture Pic :Steve Ellis

Nuhiu and his family fled the war-torn country when he was a child but there remained links to Kosovo with much of his family remaining there through the strife.

So when the country was given official status by Fifa last year, the opportunity arose for Nuhiu to represent a place that he holds dear.

After years of unofficial friendlies and then sanctioned non-competitive matches, in May last year Kosovo joined Fifa and were granted permission to enter qualifying tournaments.

The new era began with a 2-0 friendly win over Faroe Islands before the campaign began for World Cup 2018 and a creditable 1-1 draw at Finland.

Now, four games in, Nuhiu has arrived on the scene. Kosovo haven’t picked up a point since Red Bull Salzburg’s Valon Berisha, who had previously played for Norway struck a penalty to equalise in Turku and their next challenge comes tonight against Iceland in Shkodër, Albania.

It will be a poignant night for Nuhiu, who in an interview with the BBC, spoke about the bond he maintained with Kosovo and the worry felt for family members he left when he, his parents and brother and sister moved to Austria.

“All the other part of my family lived in Kosovo,” he said. “They stayed there during the war. The Balkan mentality is a bit different. I wouldn’t say that they weren’t scared but they lived with that. They said ‘what’s happening is happening’ we are going to stay in the country.

“Of course I worried. We spoke on the phone every day, every ten hours or something.

“They said everything was fine, but when you look at the news you see what was going on but they don’t want to tell you the real things because they know you will worry.”

Kosovo manager Albert Bunjaki has grown frustrated by the lack of goals in his team and has turned to Nuhiu among others to arrest that problem.

“We have to use all chances we create in this match,” he said. “Since in last matches, we created many chances to score but could not finish them. We may not have many chances to score in this match but we must use as many chances as possible. We hope this time to be lucky in finishing the chances.”