In a country where no ice rink exists, one would assume that it wouldn't be possible to play any winter sports such as hockey, skating or curling.
However, Kosovo is beginning to dismay that assumption.
In September of 2011, the Kosovo Curling Federation (KCF) was established. Since then, it has achieved rapid progress into becoming recognized worldwide, including joining the World Curling Federation (WCF) as its 50th member country.
Peter Andersen, who hails from Canada, has been working as an advisor to the Kosovo Curling Federation for the past year and has been putting a great deal of effort into getting the sport off the ground in Kosovo.
“I had been living in Kosovo for 6 months and usually around that time of year I would have been curling,” said Andersen. “So I decided to search online to see if there were any curling rinks nearby that I could travel to and potentially play at.”
To his surprise, he found out that there was actually a federation for curling in the country. He then met with the President of the KCF.
“I learned the president of the KCF was also the president of the Kosovo Olympic Committee,” Andersen revealed. “He explained the story about how the KCF came to be and then asked if I would like to act as the advisor to the Federation basically putting me in charge of all development activities.”
The WCF grants each member country a sum of $12,000 for their Development Assistance program, allowing the KCF and Andersen to work on developing the sport in Kosovo.
“Using the funding we were able to purchase two smaller iceless versions of the sport,” said Andersen. “Both do great jobs at demonstrating the idea of the sport, especially when it comes to strategy, what throwing is like and the physical curling movement of the rocks as they glide down the rink.”
In the recent year, it has seen an increase in popularity and interest from the people of Kosovo, with events being held to teach the youth how the sport works.
At the Kosovo Environment and Sport Day in May, Curling was introduced as a sport to the youth in attendance, thanks to the financial support from the World Curling Federation Development Program in addition with assistance from Rock Solid Productions.
“Curling's debut at Environment & Sport day was a huge success, the school kids involved in the event loved it,” said Andersen. “It also caught many people who were walking by to stop and watch from the side to see what all these kids were playing.
At this event people were able to participate in learning how the sport works, in the form of street curling on the streets of Pristina.
Summer in Kosovo was graced with the opportunity from Kosovo Curling Federation to provide street curling rentals to anyone who wanted to play, and could be rented out by bars, restaurants, events and festivals.
However, being in a country that has no access to an ice rink which would allow people to truly practice with proper equipment, there are still many obstacles to overcome.
“I know the interest is there but we need to get more exposure. This winter I'd ideally like to find a group of athletes to take to a nearby country to teach and play on real ice,” suggested Andersen.
“We also need to find a way for people who want to play with the equipment we do have to have easier access to the rink,” added Andersen.
In spite of hardships, Kosovo has recently achieved success in the sports world on an international level as well which has paved way for more opportunities to become involved in curling.
This past month, Kosovo recently became the 171st member of the International University Sports Federation which allows athletes to compete in more than 60 sports, including curling, at the World Championships and the Summer/Winter Universiades.
The Universiades are seen as the Olympics for university sports around the world, which is a huge achievement for Kosovo’s talent to display their athletic prowess at the international level.
“The next Winter Universiade is Krasnoyarsk, Russia 2019, which if teams were able to get some access to ice could compete in and make history as Kosovo's first curling team on an international stage,” said Andersen.
The sport is also planning on becoming introduced in schools throughout the country in collaboration with the Rocks and Rings program as the school year begins once again this month. Through the use of indoor floor curling equipment, students will able to become involved and learn how the sport works during physical education classes.
“I am attending the World Curling Congress Meetings in Bled, Slovenia September 14-18 where I hope to pick the brains of more experienced representatives to advise me on how to approach the next stages of development,” added Andersen.
The future looks bright for the sport, in a country where its future looks bright as well, which will allow both curling and Kosovo to complement one another and unlock its true potential.