Recently, in UEFA’s meeting in London, Gibraltar was given full UEFA membership. The vote was a huge success with no abstentions and no votes against, a big improvement from 3 years ago when they received just 3 votes in their favour.
In the past, Gibraltar has been met with staunch opposition from the Spanish. The opposition was largely political and when the Gibraltar FA took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, they ruled that the reasons given for rejecting Gibraltar’s application in the past were not valid.
This time there was to be no stumbling block. The Gibraltarian FA had put in a lot of time, effort and travelling to rally support and they now become the smallest UEFA nation.
While their inclusion will raise new arguments for the addition of pre-qualifiers for the smaller nations of Europe, I believe that such an alteration would be detrimental to the world game of football and that such a decision wouldn’t be taken.
My family originates from Gibraltar and it is something I am proud of. I’ve followed this news closely and despite England being my national team, I’ve always wanted Gibraltar to get their UEFA membership and vowed to follow them if they do.
Imagine this in another scenario. Imagine I was born and raised in Gibraltar, still living there today. I grew up as a football fan and so does a lot of Gibraltar. 10% of the country’s population is involved in the footballing game.
How do you explain to someone that despite their love for football, their country is not allowed to be a part of the footballing world? Every child dreams of pulling on their nations shirt and taking to the field, imagine that not even being a possibility because UEFA doesn’t deem your country of origin to be worthy of their membership.
The Gibraltar FA have high hopes. A new 8,000 seater stadium is being planned and the association is following UEFA guidelines closely. They understand that being World or European champions isn’t going to happen anytime soon but they have vowed to ‘match the best with football of a high standard and entertaining style.’
They’re going to be seen as the new whipping boys of European football but don’t be so sure. They defeated the Faroe Islands 3-0 and enjoyed positive results during their provisional license.
The results don’t suggest big wins against Europe’s elite but it does show that they are unlikely to be the worst team in Europe. Football in Gibraltar has been a part of life for years. They boast one of the oldest football associations in the world having been founded in 1895, which makes it even more surprising that it has taken this long for UEFA to recognise them.
The decision is massive for the people of Gibraltar and will be celebrated, as it should be. As Gibraltar is a small area with a vast population many have immigrated, like my grandparents. For all those people, in Gibraltar itself and the rest of Europe, we can all be united in following our nation for the first time.
Team 54 is ready and raring to go.
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