Category Archives: Western Europe

Gibraltar, UEFA’s Team #54


Damiano Benzoni

Gibraltar is the 54th full UEFA member. The British colony had obtained provisional member status and admittance to youth international competitions last October. Its full membership was voted today during the XXXVII Congress of the European football confederation in London. According to reports, the vote had a large majority.

Gibraltar’s quest for UEFA and FIFA membership began in 1997 and was freezed in 2004 by the renewal of the FIFA statute. The new rules of eligibility for new FAs mirrored FIFA’s programme of admitting only nations recognised by the UN – even though in the past a number of exceptions were made, notably in the cases of the Faroe Islands and of the Home Unions, who are granted separate membership by the statute itself.

Gibraltar’s main opponent in its path to membership was Spain, still claiming its right to sovereignity on the Rock. Gibraltar, conquered by the British Navy in 1704, retained its status as a colony through referenda in 1967 and 2002 and established self-government with the 2006 Constitution. Spain threatened repeatedly to withdraw its teams from UEFA competitions in case the colony was admitted, forcing the GFA to bring the case in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2007 and to consider requesting membership to the African confederation instead of the European one.

In order to avoid further tensions, Spain and Gibraltar will be kept apart in competition draws, as happens for Russia and Georgia (because of the 2008 war in Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and for Azerbaijan and Armenia (divided on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue). Now the GFA is planning a new stadium at Europa Point. A necessity, as the Rock’s only field – the Victoria Stadium – lies on the isthmus dividing Gibraltar and Spain, which is the reason of a further dispute between the two nations.

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Paradise Lost: Football and the Vatican

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Damiano Benzoni

All pictures must be credited to Damiano Benzoni – Further material can be found at this link.

“If this goes in, the score is even”, the referee tells the goalie Javier Ángulo Coyotzi. From the stands, an acordeón eerily plays the beginning of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor as PSG’s José Ignacio Tola Claux approaches the penalty spot. Regular time ended in a 2-2 draw – the Mexicans scoring through a brace by their new signing João Kalevski, a Brazilian of Ukrainian descent. Two early mistakes from the spot almost killed any hope for the French, but after a spectacular save by their keeper on the third Mexican penalty, Tola Claux now has the chance to get his team back in the game. He kicks it to the keeper’s right, Coyotzi dives and deflects it on the post. The ball sidespins all along the goal-line, clips on the other post and finally stops without crossing the line. The Mexicans erupt, Coyotzi is brought to triumph before the stands, where the acordeón is now playing Cielito Lindo. PSG also salute their supporters, then both teams join in a circle at midfield. Under the shade of the Saint Peter’s Cupola, they pray together: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”. Then the Mexican captain thanks God on behalf of everyone and pays homage to the other team: “They were our opponents today on the pitch, but in everyday’s battle for our faith, they are our brothers”. Continue reading

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Gibraltar, a colony in UEFA

Damiano Benzoni

“The Gibraltar FA is pleased to announce that it has today been granted provisional membership of UEFA at a meeting of the European football governing body’s Executive Committee in St.Petersburg, Russia. The vote on the Gibraltar FA’s full membership of UEFA will take place on the 24th May 2013 during the XXXVII Congress to be held in London, England”. Alea iacta est: this is how the Gibraltar FA announced – through a press release – the reaching of one of its goals, the status of provisional UEFA member. The territory which, facing the Moroccan coast, controls the choke point governing access to the Mediterranean Sea still preserves the status of British colony, since the Royal Navy conquered it in 1704. The status was confirmed through two referendums in 1967 and 2002. Since 2006 the colony enjoys home rule and refers defence and foreign affairs matters to the United Kingdom, but already in 1997 the GFA, which was founded in 1895 as an FA affiliate, asked admission to FIFA. Continue reading

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The derby which disappeared

Damiano Benzoni

“In full throat, they sing in praise of our slaughter: we’re up to our knees in Fenian blood”. This is how Franklin Foer, in his book How Football Explains the World, describes the Old Firm, the Glasgow derby between Celtic and Rangers. A derby which between 1996 and 2003, according to figures reported by Foer, caused eight deaths and scores of assaults. A derby that now seems destined to vanish as Rangers were not admitted to the next season of the Scottish Premier League on charges of debts totalling 94 million € towards Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. The club had gone into administration on February 14th, with a ten-point penalty and the exclusion from next season’s European competitions, and liquidation started on June 14th. Rangers tried in vain to apply for the new SPL season with a new society, but the other clubs voted against: with ten votes out of twelve, the abstention of Kilmarnock meant the only vote in favour of such move was the vote of the Glaswegian protestants themselves. The new club will have to apply to the lower leagues, and may be forced to start from the fourth rung of the Scottish championship. Continue reading

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