Kosovo, Gibraltar join FIFA before 2018 World Cup qualifying

MEXICO CITY: Gibraltar and Kosovo became FIFA members on Friday and will be fast-tracked into 2018 World Cup qualifying, which kicks off in Europe in September.

The vote at the FIFA Congress in Mexico City increased the global governing body's membership to 211.

Kosovo's entry could lead to a wave of transfer requests to FIFA from players who opted to represent countries, including Albania and Switzerland, before the largely ethnic Albanian former enclave of Serbia started to gain international soccerrecognition just two years ago.

Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of political independence, which is accepted by more than 100 United Nations member states.

It is likely FIFA and UEFA will need to separate the Serbia and Kosovo national teams and clubs in competition draws.

Similarly, Gibraltar and teams from neighboring Spain have been kept apart since the British territory joined UEFA in 2013.

"It has bene a very long road to FIFA membership for us — it feels fantastic to be here and to join you all in FIFA," Gibraltar federation president Michael Llamas told delegates. "As a small country we are realistic about what we can achieve on the pitch but that is not the point.

"The point is that in the three years of UEFA membership we have been able to progress and transform the practices."