Kosovo has been admitted as the 210th member of football’s world governing body, FIFA. The Football Federation of Kosovo’s (FFK) membership was confirmed after a vote held at the 66th FIFA Congress in Mexico City this evening (Friday, May 13).
Needing to secure a simple majority in the ballot, 141 delegates voted in favor of admitting Kosovo and 23 against as 164 valid votes were cast. The result comes just 10 days after European football’s governing body, UEFA,voted to admit Kosovo as a member last Tuesday.
With the issue of Kosovo’s membership amongst the last issues on the agenda, and with a seven hour time difference between Mexico and Kosovo, Kosovars eagerly anticipating the result were made to wait until the late evening before the news finally came through.
Kosovo will now be able to field a national team in all FIFA competitions, including the centerpiece of the global footballing calendar, the World Cup. Earlier this week it was confirmed that Kosovo and Gibraltar — who were also admitted to FIFA today — would be able to join the qualifiers for the next World Cup, due to be held in 2018, should they receive FIFA membership. It will now be down to UEFA to determine how to accommodate the two countries in the qualifying groups, which have already been drawn.
In another major development at the Congress, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, appointed Senegal’s Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura as secretary general, the first woman to hold the role. Samoura replaces Jerome Valcke after the Frenchman was banned from all football related activity for 12 years following an investigation into misconduct earlier this year.
Kosovo will play
FIFA membership is the latest high profile sporting recognition for Kosovo in the past few years as sports governing bodies have one by one accepted that Kosovo wants to play. Most significant has been the recognition by the International Olympic Committee in December 2014, which means that Kosovar athletes will compete at an Olympic Games under their country’s flag for the first time in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
The challenges of building a competitive Kosovo national team are well documented, with many of the country’s most talented players already having represented other countries at senior level, and therefore unlikely to be allowed to switch allegiances even should they wish to. However these are issues to be confronted on another day.
For now, Kosovars can celebrate the fact that when it comes to football, Kosovo is finally being allowed to play.