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Kosovo & Gibraltar become Fifa members

Do Not UseDo Not Use 13/05/2016
Kosovo fans watch their team against Haiti © Getty Images Kosovo fans watch their team against Haiti

Kosovo and Gibraltar can enter the 2018 World Cup after being accepted as members of world governing body Fifa.

The move takes the total number of Fifa members to 211.

Kosovo FA president Fadil Vokrri said: "The players and people of Kosovo have been waiting a long time - thank you."

Both territories enjoyed sizable majorities in the vote - 86% in favour of Kosovo's inclusion and 93% in favour of Gibraltar - despite facing opposition from neighbouring countries.

Gibraltar - BBC profile

Kosovo - BBC profile

Spain - which ceded Gibraltar to Britain 300 years ago but wants it returned to Spanish sovereignty - has long opposed Gibraltar's progress towards Fifa membership, while Serbia has strongly been against Kosovo's inclusion. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Kosovo's complicated political status has seen several players born in the state play for different countries, including Xherdan Shaqiri and Valon Behrami (Switzerland), Shefki Kuqi (Finland) and Lorik Cana (Albania).

Kosovo's admission raises the question of whether players born in the former Serbian province will be allowed to switch allegiance.

A player with dual nationality who has played for one national team is unable to switch to his second country, but in Kosovo's case Fifa is expected to look at individuals on a case-by-case basis.

Kosovo were only granted membership of European governing body Uefa last week, narrowly surviving a vote on their inclusion by 28 votes to 24.

Kosovo played their first international friendly in 2014 after being granted permission by football's global governing body Fifa.

Gibraltar, which has a population of about 32,000, became full Uefa members in 2013 and took part in qualification for Euro 2016, albeit without picking up a single point.

"We are realistic about what we can achieve on the pitch but that is not the point," said Michael Llamas, the head of the Gibraltar football association.

"The point is that our many children who love our sport and who now will be the first generation of Gibraltarians to grow up with Fifa membership. They will be able to dream."

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