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Minnows Gibraltar officially join UEFA… but why are Spain mad?

May 24, 2013, 12:32 PM EDT

Britain's Prince Edward and his wife Sophie Rhys-Jones wave before boarding their plane to leave the airport in front of the Rock in Gibraltar Reuters

For anyone who’s never been to Gibraltar, and that’s most people by the way, it is a small island (rock) hanging off Spain’s south coast that has been controlled by British rule since 1713.

Gibraltar’s population is just under 30,000 at the last time of counting.

But the tiny nation is causing quite a fuss on the world soccer scene, as UEFA today confirmed Gibraltar would become it’s 54th member.

Everyone seems pretty happy that their 16 year wait to be accepted into UEFA has arrived.

Well, not everyone.

The World and European Champions are cheesed off. They’re not impressed. Not one iota.

So why should the Spanish nation worry about a small island off their coast being able to qualify for European Championships and World Cups?

It’s not a question of soccer.

Let’s put it frankly, even though this is a landmark day for the Gibraltar Football Association, it will be a very long time before they can even dream of competing on the biggest stage of world soccer. But who knows.

Regardless, Spain aren’t annoyed at their admittance into UEFA because of Gibraltar’s players and their soccer ability. Because that would just be ludicrous.

This particular British Overseas Territory is under intense political pressure, as Spain continues to claim sovereignty over the territory despite it being ruled by Britain since 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.

In the past Spain have threatened to boycott both club and international competitions if Gibraltar were admitted into UEFA.

So now where do they stand? They are still opposed to Gibraltar joining UEFA, but now this has happened, what can they do? Not much. In the past only England, Wales and Scotland had supported Gibraltar’s hopes of becoming a full member of UEFA. But today’s vote in London received overwhelming support.

Michel Platini confirmed earlier this morning that Spain and Gibraltar will be kept apart in Euro 2016 qualifying, as they didn’t want to further heighten the tension. “Gibraltar will not play qualifying matches with Spain – we also have this situation with Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Platini said.

While recently the New York Times spoke with Gibraltar’s head coach Allen Bula, who was bullish about Spain’s stance towards Gibraltar.

Over there [pointing to the border between Gibraltar and Spain about a third of a mile away] we have the world and European champions. I would play them any day, any time, anywhere, anyhow. The Spanish have stopped us from joining UEFA for political reasons and haven’t let us progress. We have proved Spain wrong.

But with Spanish historians stating that “The Battle of Gibraltar” shouldn’t be forgotten and citing younger Spanish citizens are know realizing Gibraltar as a “foreign nation on home soil,” rumblings of discontent will continue.

However, on the soccer field, Gibraltar are making a name for themselves. They defeated the Faroe Islands 3-0 and San Marino 7-5 in recent exhibition games, to show they are at least equal to, if not better than, other UEFA minnows.

We haven’t heard the last of this. But at long last, Gibraltar has a national team.

There will be a huge party on that famous rock in the Mediterranean tonight.

  1. wesbadia - May 24, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    In the future, please reveal the subject of the article sooner in the piece rather than making readers wade through five chintzy paragraphs that added nothing to the story and instead was just hyperbole designed to inflate a point bigger than it really is. Concise journalism should be the goal for anyone in the field, especially when they’re publishing blogs…

  2. geojock - May 24, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    What is all the fuss about? There isn’t oil there or anything!

    • wesbadia - May 24, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      It’s a key strategic point for the western entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. The reason a battle was fought over that rock how many centuries ago was because it virtually dictates shipping and trade in and out of the Mediterranean from the Atlantic.

  3. randomhookup - May 24, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    In the past Spain have threatened to boycott both club and international competitions if Gibraltar were omitted into UEFA.

    I think you mean “admitted” rather than “omitted.” Or I am really confused about Spain’s objection.

  4. pf1977 - May 24, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    i’m a bit surprised that a territory gets to join as a member as they are not an independent country.

    • wesbadia - May 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      Just an example of how the real movers and shakers in the world are private organizations and interests, and not political entities drawn by imaginary lines on a map and “recognized” by an irrelevant body like the UN.

  5. jmillmac - May 24, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Why is Spain upset? One word: Catalonia. This sets a potential precedent for Catalonia to eventually ask for the same thing, which of course could lead Catalonian independence.

    • sabanissatan - May 25, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      except for the little detail that Cataluña is a part of Spain and Gibraltar has been a British possession since 1713.. Spaniards are upset because Gibraltar is a part of their country still occupied and controlled by a foreign power.. I wonder what the Great Empire or her little British ally would do if Spain decided to put a military base in Florida or the Isle of Wight.. What´s next letting Rota have a national team?

  6. wfjackson3 - May 25, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    “if Gibraltar were omitted into UEFA.”

    I think you mean admitted?

  7. footballer4ever - May 27, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    Spain still carries the “Conquistador” mentality when they were able to colonize other places. Let them football boycott if they want, i am sure the only ones who will be affected will be themselves.

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