Coach Bula's career mirrors Gibraltar's grit

Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:31pm EST
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By Daniel Alvarenga

ALMANCIL, Portugal (Reuters) - When Gibraltar coach Allen Bula enters the Algarve stadium for the team's momentous UEFA debut on Tuesday, he will look back at a career built on the same principles that earned them an elusive court victory over Spain: persistence and grit.

Gibraltar, an economically self-reliant and mostly self-governing British Overseas Territory, became UEFA's 54th member in May, following a 14-year court marathon against Spain's objections to their football ambitions as a national side.

His career demanded similar nerve and sacrifice from Bula, a cheeky and confident coach who has set the bar high for the mostly amateur Gibraltarians.

"I was born in Gibraltar, that's my nation. I left for England and there I started working semi-professionally as a coach," the coach told Reuters in an interview at the squad's training camp in Portugal's southern region of the Algarve.

Like Gibraltar's UEFA entry, Bula, 48, faced a bumpy road to success.

"I reached the under-21s in Gibraltar as a player but unfortunately had an accident in my leg so my career ended very soon".

Most of Bula's professional career was spent at Slovak side MFK Kosice, where he worked for more than seven years, first as an academy manager and then head coach.

"It was an offer I could not refuse," he said. Fittingly, Gibraltar will take on Slovakia in their first full international.   Continued...

Gibraltar's coach Allen Bula greets supporters after his team's international friendly soccer match against Slovakia at Algarve stadium near Faro November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante