Kosovo and Gibraltar will have the opportunity to compete in 2018 World Cup qualifying after being admitted as the 210th and 211 FIFA members on Friday.
After gaining political independence in 2008, Kosovo has fought for equal representation in football terms. Despite resistance from Serbia – which refuses to recognise Kosovo on the grounds that it is not a United Nations member – UEFA formally accepted the disputed territory last week.
On Friday, it once again rose above the politics to secure a 141-23 vote at the FIFA Congress in Mexico City.
Gibraltar, meanwhile, has already competed at the European level, a breakthrough if miserable campaign in which it finished last in Group D of Euro 2016 qualifying with just two goals scored and 56 conceded.
The island has sparked its own political controversy – it is a British overseas territory with Spanish claims – and it struggled for years to gain UEFA membership.
A ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week ordered the FIFA Congress to admit Gibraltar as a full member “without delay,” and Friday’s 172-12 vote confirmed its newfound global status.
Both countries will now take their positions in one of UEFA’s nine groups for 2018 World Cup qualifying. Seven of those groups hold six teams, while the remaining two have just five representatives.
Gibraltar and Spain will likely be kept apart, as will Kosovo and Serbia. As a close ally of Serbia’s, Russia could also be separated from the Balkan country.
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