Gibraltar's historic UEFA debut more than just a game

Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:56am EST
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By Daniel Alvarenga

LISBON (Reuters) - A red British post box was erected in the tiny enclave to mark its huge achievement, summed up in the inscription: "Gibraltar Football Association - 54th member of UEFA, 24th May, 2013".

Now, after defying Spain to become the smallest member of the official European football family, the rocky territory's 30,000-strong population is excited at their first full international against Slovakia on Tuesday (1.30 p.m EDT).

"I will be very emotional and nervous. It's a dream come true, one I've had ever since I can remember: to see my flag flying out there on the pitch, at the highest level," Dennis Beiso, the chief executive of the Gibraltar FA told Reuters.

Delving into history books will help grasp why the GFA only became a full UEFA member almost 120 years after being formed.

Tuesday's match is not their first international of course: they have been playing for years, and once drew a match with Real Madrid in 1929. More recently their opponents have been the likes of Greenland, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Their tougher battle was a bitter 14-year court marathon against Spain's objections to their football ambitions as a national side.

Gibraltar's northern neighbor disputes its sovereignty, ceded to Britain "in perpetuity" under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht as a spoil of the War of the Spanish Succession.

Back then, muskets and cannons were fired to settle the argument pitting an alliance of English, Dutch and Austrians against Spain and France.   Continued...