ZURICH: Kosovo and Gibraltar are to play 2018 World Cup qualifiers after being admitted as new members of FIFA, world football governing body confirmed on Friday.
“UEFA’s Emergency Panel has today decided that Kosovo will join Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey and Finland in Group I, and Gibraltar will join Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia and Cyprus in Group H,” FIFA said in a statement.
“The UEFA Emergency Panel has decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia should not play against Kosovo for security reasons,” the statement added.
Kosovo and Gibraltar became the 210th and 211th members of the world football organization in votes taken at FIFA’s annual congress in Mexico City in May.
Serbia vowed to take legal action to reverse its former province’s admission.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, a decade after the 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces.
More than 100 countries recognized its independence, but it is not a United Nations member and Belgrade refuses to accept the separation.
As for Gibraltar, FIFA’s executive body originally rejected its bid, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered that the congress take a vote on the British territory, which is also claimed by Spain.
An overwhelming majority of FIFA members, 93 percent, voted to admit Gibraltar, which has a population of just 32,000 people.
Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.
London says it will not do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians, who are staunchly pro-British.