National identity: Basque region votes to apply for UEFA and FIFA recognition

December 13 – Using cases like Gibraltar and Kosovo as precedents, Spain’s Basque region is to request formal recognition from both FIFA and UEFA following a vote by its local assembly.

If approved, the Basque Football Federation (VFF) would apply to play at the European Championship and the World Cup though any acceptance would open the door to all manner of other autonomous regions within countries.

Players from the likes of Atletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Alaves and Eibar all attended Wednesday’s VFF board meeting after which the following statement was issued:

“Following the will of the FVF, representing Basque football, to achieve international recognition of its teams, it has been resolved to formally request the direct integration of the FVF in UEFA and FIFA.”

Gibraltar, after a long legal fight, gained recognition by UEFA in spite of its status as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom while Kosovo is also now a member despite opposition from Serbia.

A “national” Basque team toured way back in the 1920s before the Franco dictatorship put a halt to all regional autonomy. With the return of democracy, Basque teams started playing again though membership of FIFA and UEFA is almost certainly a non-starter especially since the Spanish FA is bound to object.

Nevertheless Luis María Elustondo, head of the VFF, commented: “That’s not an obstacle. There are other cases, such as Gibraltar, Kosovo or the Faroe Islands.”

The latest regional FA to apply for UEFA status, the island of Jersey which comes under the English FA’s remit, was refused admission by UEFA, not even making it to a vote by UEFA members.

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