In May Gibraltar was finally admitted into UEFA at its annual congress in London, ending a saga which had dragged on since 1999 and was only resolved once the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) heard their case and ruled that there was no reason for Gibraltar not to be admitted.
One of the reasons why UEFA had been reluctant to admit the territory was that there was considerable pressure from Spain not to allow them into the European footballing community, due to a long running dispute with Britain concerning who claims sovereignty over Gibraltar.
The Spanish Football Association, back up by the national government, said that it would not take part in any sporting event with the territory and that if UEFA did allow them membership then all Spanish teams – club and country – would pull out of all continental competitions.
However, UEFA ignored these threats and went ahead with its plan to create its newest – and smallest – member nation. But Spain isn’t taking the decision easily and news coming out of Gibraltar’s news agencies suggests that they are trying to disrupt the territories’ first fixtures.
A game that was organised between Cuba’s Under-20 squad (on their way to Turkey for the Under-20 World Cup) and Gibraltar’s Under-19 squad in Marbella was cancelled in what Cuban sources called “truly strange” events.
Many are suggesting that the Spanish government is keeping its promise to disrupt any activities undertaken by sports teams from Gibraltar and put pressure on the stadium in Marbella to cancel the game, before the Spanish FA released a statement that outlines the new hugely increased match fees that foreign teams will need to pay if they want to play in the country, claiming they are “protecting the interests of Spanish football”.
Gibraltar weren’t able to hold the game in their own stadium because the British government wouldn’t give the Cuban team visas so had to seek a pitch on foreign soil. The GFA also cannot host European Championship qualifying matches in the territory until they sort out issues with their only stadium, and again, will need to play their home games elsewhere.
The Spanish FA realise this and are making the situation even more difficult by not providing them with any nearby facilities, meaning they’ll have to travel further afar, causing costs to escalate and logistical headaches.
If the reports are proven to be true, and Spain is looking to defy UEFA by discriminating against a member nation, then it is hoped that the footballing authorities look to rectify the situation and offer Gibraltar a life line. The bullying by the Spanish has been evident for many years and it is time they began to respect Gibraltar’s right to play the game.
image: © scotbot