ALMANCIL, Portugal (Reuters) - Despite having only three professional players, UEFA new boys Gibraltar are sowing the seeds to make sure they will not be subject to humiliating defeats, Gibraltar FA Chief Executive Officer Dennis Beiso said.
Ahead of an historic UEFA debut against Slovakia at Portugal’s Algarve stadium on Tuesday (1.30 P.M. EST), Beiso said the tiny Iberian enclave of 30,000 people will be brave but realistic in its ambitions.
“We will use other small countries in Europe as our model. For instance Malta, Liechtenstein, Andorra,” he told Reuters on Monday.
“When they started in their football development they were regularly getting beaten 8-, 9- ,10-0. These days it’s far tougher to beat them and certainly they are never embarrassed in the field of play.”
The rocky 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.
Gibraltar has about 1,400 players, two divisions and 20 teams. Ten percent of its population is somehow involved in the sport.
Beiso said most of those in Gibraltar will be glued to television screens on Tuesday.
“There is a huge amount of interest in the game. People are getting organized to watch it in bars, at home. It’s going to be a massive social event”.
Gibraltar’s squad to face Slovakia includes a policeman, a fireman and several civil servants.
But they will also count on former Manchester United defender Danny Higginbotham, who said their style brings together elements from Spanish and English football.
“I’ve only trained once with them but saw a little bit of it. They want to get the ball down and pass it.
“Obviously you need to get a bit of the physical side of it As well. We are not so much a physical team I would say,” said Higginbotham, who plays for English fifth-tier side Chester FC.
National coach Allen Bula exudes confidence, saying he wants to be in the fight for a spot in France at Euro 2016, but the truth is that Tuesday’s new experience will be challenging
“A lot of the players don’t know what to expect. It’s a new thing for everybody involved: that’s the coach, management, players. We want to give a good account of ourselves and make sure we stand up and be counted,” Higginbotham added.
“In the end, it’s to enjoy the experience”.
Editing by Alison Wildey