Kosovo has been accepted as a member of UEFA, becoming the 55th member of European soccer's governing body despite strong opposition from neighbouring Serbia, from which it declared independence in 2008.

UEFA's annual Congress voted by 28 votes to 24 to accept Kosovo's application. Two votes were declared invalid.

Kosovo journalists outside the hall cheered the decision, which means teams from Kosovo can enter European club and national team competitions and paves the way for the republic to apply for FIFA membership.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci wrote on his Facebook page: "Kosovo in UEFA! The best news for countless fans in our republic. Now we will play in international championships, some games will be won some will be lost but no one will ever keep us out from green fields."

Before the vote, Serbian FA president TomislavKaradzic had urged the Congress to reject the application, saying it was a case of politics interfering with sport.

"This is a political, not a footballing proposal," he said  "We are facing a stern test, we must say no to politics, no to divisions that are maybe detrimental.

"It would create tumult in the region and open a Pandora's box throughout Europe."

Kosovo will apply next week to join global soccer body FIFA and could play in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers if accepted.

Kosovo were granted permission two years ago to play friendly matches but with restrictions, which included a ban on displaying national symbols or play national anthems at games.