The first blog on football in Gibraltar, up since March 2010
Allen Bula has no fresh injury concerns ahead of tomorrow’s away match against the Republic of Ireland.
It looks like Bula has a full compliment of players at his disposal, as no news on injuries has been reported by either the GFA or local press. Hopefully this is the case come tomorrow.
Kyle Casciaro is likely to start up top, while it remains to be seen if Bula sticks with the 4-1-4-1 or switches to something different for an away match in front of potentially 50,000 people.
As for Ireland, Martin O’Neill has had a few injury issues. With Seamus Coleman, Shay Given and James McCarthy all withdrawing from injury last week, his injury woes have been added to with the news Richard Keogh is unavailable tomorrow.
However, such is the strength of the Irish national player pool that they have been able to replace said players adequately, and will still be the stronger of the two teams tomorrow.
LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane is expected to start, and will be looking to add to an already impressive international goalscoring record. Premier League involvement will come from the likes of Aiden McGeady, John O’Shea and Darron Gibson, to name but a few plying their trade in England’s top division.
Today’s 2016 Futsal Euro preliminary draw saw Gibraltar drawn in Group A, alongside hosts Bulgaria, Greece and Denmark.
Whilst Gibraltar are unranked due to not having played the minimum amount of games yet, their opponents are ranked 52nd (Greece), 63rd (Denmark) and 81st (Bulgaria) in the world rankings.
After securing 3rd place last time out in France, Gibraltar have been handed a group that on paper looks tougher than two years ago. However, the national team may look at what Gibraltar Scorpions did in Bosnia last month as an idea of what teams from Gibraltar can do in the indoor game. No doubt new manager Peter Moreno will be looking to at least match the three points from 2012.
The preliminary rounds will be contested between the 13th – 18th January 2015.
The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) today released a statement confirming that they are preparing a case for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), after FIFA President Sepp Blatter declared that Gibraltar could not become a new member of world football’s governing body.
At its Executive Meeting this week, FIFA decided that Gibraltar could not join, due to not being an independent country. This is despite a number of national FA’s being a part of the organisation despite not being independent countries themselves.
As expected, the GFA will now take their case to the CAS, with the hope that the result goes the same way their UEFA membership eventually did in 2013.
The GFA did say: “Unfortunately this is a decision that, at this stage, the Gibraltar FA expected” so a case to be taken to CAS should hopefully be ready in the not too distant future. With the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw being held in St Petersburg on 25th July 2015, everyone in Gibraltar will no doubt hope to see their national team included in the draw.
Earlier today, a story appeared on the Football League website about Oldham manager Lee Johnson claiming he was approached by an agent to represent Gibraltar against Poland in the qualifier.
The GFA since came out to deny the use of any agent to approach potential players, and Gibraltar Assistant Manager David Wilson has kindly got in contact to help clarify the situation further.
Wilson said: “At no time has the player/manager in question been considered by our technical team, and especially no one representing the national team or it’s association has been given permission to speak to a player other than myself or the gaffer (Allen Bula). We certainly would not be stupid enough to not easily research that a player was not playing football.”
He went on to say: “This has been a fraudulent approach by a fraud who 100% did not have our national teams interests at heart? Only personal gain!”
The story itself, while on the whole a bit bizarre, has bought to light the fact that there are agents out there claiming to represent the GFA, who are falsely offering players the chance to represent the national team. As well as this, there will also be agents from abroad who may approach Gibraltar players, especially the younger ones, offering them opportunities at professional sides in Europe or beyond. Not all of these agents are legitimate, and the fraudulent ones could easily leave a player and his family out of pocket.
I’m sure this is an issue that the clubs will make their players fully aware of, and stories such as the one today only help create awareness on the issue.
The GFA have come out today to state that they do not use agents from either Gibraltar or abroad to approach players who are eligible to represent Gibraltar, after quotes from Oldham manager Lee Johnson suggested that an agent asked him to play for the national team against Poland.
In an article on the official Football League website, Johnson, 33, was quoted as saying that an agent approached him with an offer to come out of retirement and represent Gibraltar in the qualifier versus Poland earlier this month. Johnson turned down the approach from said agent.
However, an official GFA statement this afternoon states that they do not use agents to approach players to potentially represent Gibraltar. This would suggest that the agent who approached Johnson was dodgy, and that the Oldham manager perhaps saved himself the hassle, and some embarrassment, by not agreeing to said agents request.
Been meaning to do this for a while, but have only got around to doing this now, so let’s look at the game from two weeks ago, where Gibraltar made their competitive debut in a 7-0 loss to Poland.
Not the ideal start for Bula’s team, and unfortunately a result that gave fuel to those who believe small nations don’t belong in the main qualifiers, and should ‘earn’ their right to play ‘bigger’ countries. However, despite the scoreline, there were positives to take from actually watching the 90 minutes of the match.
For one, the first half itself wasn’t that bad a performance. When Poland scored their first, Gibraltar could easily have crumbled then, and let three or four in before half time. It didn’t happen, and Kamil Grosicki’s goal was all that separated the teams in the first half. Star striker Robert Lewandowski was quiet, and Gib, when possible, tried to play football instead of kicking lumps out of the opposition (Poland picked up two first half yellow cards to Gibraltar’s zero).
There were also positives in the individual performances of certain players. Brian Perez particularly did well on what was his ‘official’ debut; especially when he wasn’t in the original 23 man squad. Both Lee and Kyle Casciaro put in promising performances, linking up well as you would expect two brothers and club team-mates to do.
As far as a collective unit went, the defence was generally solid in the first half. David Artell could perhaps have done better for the first goal, but in general he, and the rest of the back four did well for the first half. Perez was helpless for the first goal, but his save just before that was very good, and in general he did all he could for the first 45 minutes.
A final positive, throughout the 90 minutes, was the support of the fans. Despite the scoreline, they were loud, as expected, and gave their best support to the 11 men on the pitch.
The major negative from the game was the first 15 minutes of the second half. That ‘section’ of the match was an important one in keeping things tight, and keeping the score 1-0 for longer would have started to make the Poland players a bit nervous. Instead, Nawalka’s side scored four goals in that time and killed the game off. This is something I’m sure the players will learn from and hopefully not repeat in future games.
There were one or two other negatives that can be taken, when putting the scale of the match and the gulf in opposition into context. Rafa Bado didn’t put in the sort of performance that he is capable of; he’ll be the first to admit that, and it led to him being taken off for Jake Gosling.
There was an issue with naivety at times. Obviously buoyed by the games vs Estonia and Malta, as well as a decent 45 in the first half, the Gib team tried to take the game to their Polish counterparts in the second half; this left them open for a striker of Lewandowski’s calibre to take advantage. I wouldn’t criticise the team much for this though, it was their first competitive game and by far the biggest game they had ever been in. However, this is something I imagine the team will have in their minds in the Ireland and Georgia games, and perhaps will be more sensible in when and how they try and take the game to opponents.
Fitness wasn’t as big an issue as I expected it to be, although it attributed to the last two goals. Considering most of the team had very limited competitive matches under their belt this season, they could have been a lot worse. If anything, they tired mentally instead of physically at the end of the game, something which can be trained out of them.
The players need to believe that they belong on the same stage as their more illustrious opponents. The more games they do play, the more they’ll start to believe this, and results will slowly start to improve. There’s a long road to go down before the national team may start picking up competitive victories, but it’s a road the team, both players and staff, have to go down if they want to progress over the next few years, and pass on the mentality of winning to the next generation of Gibraltarian players.
Gibraltar Scorpions finished third in their UEFA Futsal Cup preliminary group this week, which was hosted in Sarajevo.
Karl Zarb, who the club had already announced was leaving after this tournament, led Gibraltar’s first ever entry in UEFA’s premier futsal club competition, and performed respectably along the way.
The first match, against eventual group winners Baku United, saw Scorpions lose 10-0 to the English professional champions, who went on to score 26 goals over their three games.
The second match was a much tighter affair against hosts MNK Sarajevo, with the Gib side narrowly losing 10-7 to the Bosnian side. Popo, who ended up being the Scorpions top scorer, grabbed two goals and missed a penalty, with Pato, Cosa, Jesus Sanchez, Bernal and Jesus Samuel also getting on the scoresheet.
As a result of goal difference, Scorpions entered their final match, against Malmo City, knowing a draw would see them finish above the Swedish side in the group. Popo was the star of the show here, scoring all four of the Scorpions goals, but two late Malmo goals ensured that Zarb did not see off his tenure as Scorpions manager with a win.
The relative success of the Scorpions campaign was showed in them finishing above the Swedish champions, and shows the progress that domestic futsal has made in such a short space of time. With the national team in qualifiers next year, and a new manager in Peter Moreno, hopefully the national team will match, or indeed better their last effort, which also saw them finish third in the preliminaries.
With the new Gibraltar football season starting in August this year, to move in line with most of Europa, the fixtures for the opening weekend in both divisions were made public this week.
Reigning champions Lincoln face off against Lynx, who have impressed in their short history as a Premier Division team. Lincoln, who were Gibraltar’s Champions League representatives this season, look the most likely to retain the title once again, although this time it will be under new management, as former Balona manager Raul Procopio replaced the outgoing Mick McElwee.
The team who split Lincoln and Lynx in the league last season, Manchester 62, look to qualify for Europe this season as they kick off their domestic season against Lions. Lions are also under new management, as one time Brighton and Hove Albion manager, and former Gibraltar coach, Jeff Wood is tasked with challenging on both the league and cup front.
Newly promoted FC Britannia, under former College manager Juan Luis Perez Herrera, hope to ensure their stay at the top tier isn’t a temporary one, and they kick off against a St Joseph’s team who will be looking to bounce back from a poor season last year, where they ended up in the relegation play-off.
The other fixture sees Rock Cup runners up College Europa, fresh off their maiden Europa League experience, take on Glacis United. Both teams finished on 19 points last season, and will be looking to better that this term.
In the second division, while Sporting Glacis and Lions Pilots withdrew from the league, they were replaced by four teams, each with a different back story.
Gibraltar United, once one of Gibraltar’s leading teams, disbanded a couple of years ago, but have this season been reformed in a bid to return the club to its former status. They have a challenging opening day game against Gibraltar Phoenix, who are in seemingly more stable times after last season’s disastrous Premier campaign.
Gibraltar Scorpions may be more familiar as a futsal team; their indoor team won the national league and are off to Bosnia to compete in their UEFA Futsal Cup qualifying round. However, their new 11-a-side team go up against Boca Juniors, who will feel they could challenge for a top two spot this season.
Angels FC are a fairly unknown club, with little social media presence apart from a Facebook page, but they start their maiden campaign against last season’s basement boys, Cannons FC.
Europa Point FC are an interesting club to say the least. Formed about 18 months ago, with the intention to compete in Gibraltar, their motto is to give players released by clubs both on the Rock and abroad a ‘second chance’ to prove their abilities. They have come under criticism from some for their high percentage of non-domestic players, but will fancy themselves as a challenger for the title this season. They start their journey in Gibraltar with a match versus Brunos Magpies, looking to build upon a steady first season.
The other fixtures in the first game-week of the second division include runners up Mons Calpe going up against Leo FC, potential promotion contenders Olympique face Red Imps, and Hound Dogs going up against College Pegasus. With only one guaranteed promotion spot to next season’s Premier Division, the second division promises to be an exciting battle once again, and well worth following.
In the last week or so, both Lincoln Red Imps and College Europa have embarked on maiden European campaigns. While both teams exited at the first stage, they can hold their heads high in their home performances especially.
For Lincoln, their first leg against Faroese side HB was at the Victoria, and a packed Victoria Stadium saw the Red Imps earn a 1-1 draw. Joseph Chipolina’s penalty was cancelled out by Levi Hanssen, but it was a good platform for which to travel to Torshavn.
Unfortunately, the first 45 minutes in Torshavn were all but terminal for Lincoln. An abysmal performance saw HB run out 3-0 up going into the break, through goals by Hanssen, Trondur Jensen and Joan Simun Edmundsson, and the game looked over for Lincoln. The introduction of star striker Lee Casciaro at half time seemed to breath life into Lincoln, who came back with goals from George Cabrera and John Paul Duarte, and had chances to level the tie on the night. Unfortunately though they were caught on the counter, and a second Hanssen goal, alongside a good volley from Frodi Benjaminsen saw the Red Imps lose 5-2, and 6-3 on aggregate.
For College, they suffered a baptism of fire in the Europa League. Quick goals by Manuel Sutter and Pascal Schurpf saw the Dolphins 2-0 down after just eight minutes. They managed to steady the ship though, and only one more goal was conceded, as Schurpf got his second in the 72nd minute.
The return leg at the Victoria was a cagier affair, with Vaduz playing comfortably in the knowledge they were all but through. While College rarely threatened to score, they were defensively strong, restricting the chances that the Liechtensteiner outfit had. Lee Coombes sending off changed that though, and sadly for College, Vaduz scored in the 89th minute through Nicolas Hasler.
While the four games in the last eight days or so only saw one draw, both College and Lincoln on the whole put in good displays against more experienced opposition. Gibraltar also got off the mark in terms of coefficient points thanks to Lincoln’s draw, and had College held on, they would have leapfrogged San Marino into 53rd place, earning an extra Europa League spot in the process.
That could happen next year though, with San Marino losing 0.166 of their 0.499 points. A couple of positive results, and Gibraltar can look forward to seeing two teams in the Europa League in coming seasons.