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There was some big news in the background at the end of the season, with Kosovo and Gibraltar joining FIFA and UEFA. The FIFA vote was much more unanimous, coming after much closer votes to admit them into UEFA. Each of the new additions have political controversy surrounding them, but at the end of the day, they were admitted as full members.

A little background on each of the country’s political situations would be helpful. Gibraltar is a tiny peninsula on the southern border of Spain. Currently a British Territory, they do have a long history with Spain. Only 7 square kilometers and 32,000 people make up the territory, keeping it off the radar for the most part. Kosovo on the other hand has a long political history and still contentious status. It is a partially recognized state, with Serbia still laying claim to the land. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, being recognized by 108 UN states in 2015. With 11,000 square kilometers of land and just under 2 million people living in the country, Kosovo remains a very volatile situation.

This entire fiasco came about because of the ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport declaring that FIFA had to consider the applications of the two now-member states. Until recently, their applications were in sort of limbo, with various political hurdles blocking the way. For Gibraltar, it was mostly Spain providing resistance, while Kosovo’s major opponent was Serbia. The final tallies saw both countries receive over 85% affirmative votes, well over the 50% majority threshold.

With the final vote, they became the 210th and 211th members of FIFA. They also make UEFA the largest confederation with 55 members, one more than Africa. This could be big when it comes to voting in elections and selections for World Cup hosts. Any way you slice it, this is a dream come true for the newly-admitted nations.

Since the timeline on the vote was accelerated, they might actually be included in 2018 World Cup qualification, which is slated to begin in September. Luckily for the new nations, the setup works out great to slide them into Groups H and I since those groups have one fewer nation in them currently. That would also eliminate the need to drop the points against the lowest ranked teams in the A-G Groups. So the logistics make their inclusion very easy.

Perhaps this is the first step in a new direction for FIFA under the direction of new president Gianni Infantino. Sports can be a segue to help ease political tension and even shape the world. Both of these new members will have some growing pains that will need to be addressed, such as getting players to play. Some of the best players have already used their one time switch to play for other nations. Players like Adnan Januzaj who had multiple options might be able to play for Kosovo, should FIFA consider each player on a case-by-case basis. Kosovo has a much larger population to draw from, but getting one-time switches might be critical for Gibraltar to be competitive.

The next few months will be interesting to see how FIFA deals with their new members, including placing them in groups and draws at various tournaments. For now though, it is nice to see something other than corruption coming out of FIFA, even if it was forced upon them by the legal system.


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