Hamilton midfielder Gramoz Kurtaj admits he got very emotional watching Kosovo make their competitive debut – and now he wants to join their ranks.
Kurtaj was born in Pristina but left for Germany as a young child with his parents, who are of Albanian descent.
The 25-year-old was hoping to force his way into Albania’s Euro 2016 plans last season, but, now his native country have joined the football community, his heart is set on playing for Kosovo.
The former Yugoslavian entity secured a 1-1 draw in Finland on Sunday in their opening World Cup qualifier.
Kurtaj said: “First of all, every Kosovarian is very proud of this performance in the first game. It was really nice to see the 90 minutes and I was really happy with the performance and the draw. Kosovo dominated the game and were better than Finland.
“For everybody, for my family, for my friends, for every Kosovarian in the world, it was really, really emotional. People were impressed with the team and I am looking forward to the next games.
“It is really good that people in the world can look forward to this team. A lot of players are still waiting for clearance and I think they have a really strong team.
“I want to play for this team. I definitely want to be a Kosovarian national player, it is definitely one of my goals for this season.
“I am in touch with them. It doesn’t mean that they are going to call me up next time. It means I have to perform. I’m on the list of players they can call on. It’s just up to me, if I perform well then they are probably going to call me.
“I want to be fit and stay healthy, and then things come automatically. I just have to perform well and hopefully things will come.”
Kurtaj was not fit when the last squad was named after suffering a knee injury in pre-season, but he returned for Hamilton’s victory over Ross County before the break and has built up his fitness ahead of Saturday’s Ladbrokes Premiership game against Hearts.
“I had some really intense extra sessions, so the break was good for me,” he said.
“I came backing looking for a big pre-season and then the injury happened. It was really, really frustrating to have five or six weeks off. So I am looking forward to coming back and playing football. I feel fit and I cannot wait until the game on Saturday.
“I want to do better this season. It’s good that you say I made a big impact because that was my goal last season, and I think I did. That one season experience will help me now to improve myself.”