It was announced that the small British Overseas Territory attached to Spain are now officially the 54th member of UEFA. It has a population of around 28,000. It will now also be the smallest nation within FIFA, behind San Marino, Faroe Islands & Liechtenstein.
The Gibraltar Football Association was formed way back in 1895 and have applied numerous times to FIFA to become a full member, they were rejected. In 1997 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered UEFA to admit them as a provisional member.
Since 1993 the Gibraltar National team has played in the ‘Island Games’ competing against the likes of Jersey, Shetland, Minorca & Ynys Mon (Anglesey). They have won it once, in 1997, beating Rhodes 4-0.
Currently managed by Allen Bula, their biggest win is a 19-0 win against Sark in 2003. They have one player who currently plays in the Football League, his name is Liam Walker and he plays for Portsmouth. Their national stadium is called Victoria Stadium and the capacity is 5000 and probably one of the nicest settings in Europe too.
Spain have been the main opposition to the introduction of Gibraltar to UEFA, as they don’t accept Gibraltar as being a separate Nation. Most of their reasons are obviously political and UEFA has announced that Spain & Gibraltar will be kept apart in any forthcoming qualifying group draws. The same as what happens with Armenia & Azerbaijan at present.
Spain have previously said they would stop competing in the same competitions as Gibraltar at International and club level should they be allowed in, but I can’t see that happen personally.
The plus points to Gibraltar being allowed into UEFA are it would be a great place to visit as an away fan, minus the monkeys and a possibility of another team in Europe that Wales would have a chance of beating (I say optimistically!).
Does this now set a precedence? UEFA say no, as their rule (which I don’t understand if I’m honest), restricts countries that aren’t recognised by the United Nations from becoming members of UEFA. The likes of Basque, Monaco, Kosovo & the Channel Islands to name a few – Gibraltar were accepted provisionally before the rule changed happened.
There are loads of nations In the CONCACAF confederation however that are not recognised by the United Nations, such as Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands – which have the same political state as Gibraltar.
As well as US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are which are politically part of the United States. Whilst looking on Google, the next new member of UEFA could be Greenland. They also play in the Island Games but are planning on building stadia that meet the requirements set by FIFA (Though they could play in the CONCACAF region too, despite being part of Denmark.
There are already many ‘minnows’ within UEFA. San Marino, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands & Andorra are some; it will be interesting to see how Gibraltar fare in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers, they did recently beat the Faroe Islands 3-0 in a friendly but becoming a UEFA Nation could help them. Fair to say it will be a massive step up from playing Sark, Guernsey & Anglesey, to possibly playing Germany, France & Italy.
Also from the 2014/15 season the club sides from Gibraltar, such as Glacis FC, Lincoln FC & Manchester United FC (yes really) are now able to compete in European Competition. They’ll probably get further than the Welsh Premier League sides!
How long before the usual clichés from the usual people come out, such as ‘Gibraltar is a tough place to go’ and ‘There are no easy games in International football’?
But welcome to UEFA Gibraltar, anyway!
Did you know that Estonia were the only UEFA Nation to play all the other UEFA Nations (52) at International level? They’ll be wanting a friendly with Gibraltar soon! (Wales now have 5 Nations to face – Andorra, Gibraltar, Kazakhstan, Lithuania & Macedonia).