Tiny Gibraltar hopes for UEFA admittance | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerTiny Gibraltar hopes for UEFA admittance

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013 | 02:44 PM

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Gibraltar’s soccer team has beaten two current members of UEFA -- San Marino and the Faroe Islands. (Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images) Gibraltar’s soccer team has beaten two current members of UEFA -- San Marino and the Faroe Islands. (Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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On Friday, Gibraltar hopes to become an official member of UEFA. Right now it has only provisional membership. The barricade to its admittance has been Spain.
[Editor's note: The following piece was posted before Gibraltar was accepted Friday as a full member by the UEFA Congress.]

On a recent trip to Gibraltar I couldn't help but marvel at the view.

From the top of its massive granite ridge line, you can see the hazy mountaintops of Morocco, the competing blues of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and the hustle and bustle of the living history museum of the town below you.

You can also see a soccer pitch.

Brightly lit at the foot of the rock is a thatch of bright green artificial turf. It's surrounded by a burnt orange running track and some white concrete slabs meant to seat fans. It's utilitarian at best. Still, if you were to draw blood from this stone outcrop at the southern tip of Spain, Victoria Stadium would be where it would congeal.

Gibraltar's only football stadium is the heartbeat of this British Protectorate of 30,000.

It's where Gibraltarians crave to watch their own players take on the best of Europe. Officially take on the best of Europe.

On Friday, Gibraltar hopes to become an official member of UEFA. Right now it has only provisional membership.

The barricade to its admittance has been Spain. The Spanish believe Gibraltar belongs to them. They dispute the Treaty of Utrecht which, in 1713, ceded the territory in perpetuity to the British.

In recent years, Spain has threatened bold measures if UEFA was to admit Gibraltar as an independent nation.

Removing Spain's biggest clubs -- Real Madrid and Barcelona -- from European competitions has been the biggest of those threats.

So Michel Platini and company will face powerful opposition when they meet Friday as part of UEFA's Annual Congress.

It's a shame. Gibraltarians are a distinct people with their own language, currency and customs. They also have a national soccer team worth fighting for.

Gibraltar has already beaten two current members of UEFA -- San Marino and the Faroe Islands. Those opponents aren't exactly the calibre of Spain, who are the current European and World Cup champions. Indeed, the prospect of Spain playing at Victoria Stadium makes one envision the ugliest of score lines.

Still, if the vote passes in Gibraltar's favour Friday (and legal experts believe it will), locals would savour that matchup more than any other.

I'd suggest watching it from a distance though. Atop that granite ridge line. If the score got out of hand, one sideward glance and you're in Morocco.

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