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Kosovo and Gibraltar score victories in bid for football recognition

Kosovo has today (Tuesday) been accepted as a member of European football’s governing body Uefa, while Fifa has been ordered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to accept Gibraltar as a member – decisions which open the path to both nations being admitted to the qualifying process for the 2018 World Cup.

The Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) was admitted as the 55th member association of Uefa with immediate effect after a vote at the Uefa Congress in Budapest. A simple majority was needed for the FFK to become a member and it received 28 votes in favour, with 24 votes against and two invalid votes cast.

The matter provoked strong debate, with neighbouring Serbia, from which Kosovo declared independence in 2008, putting up particularly vocal opposition. It is not immediately clear whether Fifa will allow Kosovar players who have already played for another national team to switch nationalities.

Fifa rules do not permit players to change allegiance but the Reuters news agency said there has been speculation that it could allow a one-off for Kosovo. Switzerland and Albania both boast a host of players with Kosovar heritage, including the likes of Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Valon Behrami for the former nation. “We have asked Fifa the question in a very direct way and we would like to receive a clear answer but before we do I can't say anything about this,” Uefa legal director Alasdair Bell said.

Kosovo was allowed to play friendlies with restrictions by Fifa in 2014. Today’s decision opens the door for it to join world football’s governing body at the Fifa Congress in Mexico City next week.

Gibraltar’s case will also be on the agenda after CAS yesterday (Monday) upheld its national federation’s appeal against Fifa blocking its entry in 2014. “The panel has unanimously ordered that the Fifa Congress take all necessary measures to admit (Gibraltar) as a full member of Fifa as soon as possible, within the limits of the Fifa Statutes,” CAS said in a statement.

The Fifa ruling makes it a second CAS victory for Gibraltar after a previous verdict against Uefa meant it could join the European governing body in 2013. Spanish football officials have consistently opposed Gibraltar’s claims. Gibraltar borders Spain and was ceded to Britain more than 300 years ago. Spain still disputes sovereignty. Gibraltar made its competitive debut in qualifying for Uefa Euro 2016, losing every match.

In other news from the Uefa Congress, France’s Florence Hardouin was elected as the female member on the Uefa Executive Committee for the 2016-19 period, receiving 33 votes against the 21 votes received by Karen Espelund of Norway.