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Gibraltar

With a population of just 30,000 people, Gibraltar is UEFA’s newest member, but what challenges face the British territory?

With such a tiny population, the pool of players available to manager Allen Bula is limited, with just 600 players available for selection. The most notable players eligble to play for Gibraltar are former Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham, and Barnsley defender Scott Wiseman, with the rest of the squad made-up from semi-pros and amateurs from the Gibraltarian football league, which has 8 teams. For their game against Slovakia, the squad included a fireman, a policeman and a customs official.

There are also diplomatic and political problems with Gibraltar’s recognition as a full-qualified UEFA member, too. Spain threatened to boycott qualifying for Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018 if Gibraltar were to be accepted as a UEFA member last year, and given the ongoing tensions between Spain and Gibraltar, fans travelling to Gibraltar games having to be careful of strict Spanish security forces entering and leaving the British colony.

Gibraltar cannot play competitive games at their home ground, as it only holds 5,000 people, and does not meet UEFA criteria for hosting competitive international fixtures. As a result, Gibraltar must play their competitive games in Portugal, until a new ground is built, which causes trouble and dilemmas for those wishing to watch their country in action.

This did not deter Gibraltar from putting in a gutsy performance against Slovakia, however. Against a side ranked 65th in the world, Gibraltar, with just two full-time professionals, ground out a 0-0 draw, an impressive defeat, and one that shows that they are not going to be UEFA’s new whipping boys, and could rise above the level of similar nations such as San Marino.

Gibraltar is just a fifth the size of Blackpool, with its size being just 2.6 square miles.  Nevertheless, the future looks bright for Gibraltar, with participation in the Euro 2016 qualifiers the first step in what could be a prosperous and successful period for the British colony.

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