Dream Come True
Graeme Bailey speaks to Gibraltar head coach Allen Bula after their admission into UEFA.
Last Updated: 24/05/13 3:05pm
Some two years ago I was in the dark about Gibraltar on their fight for UEFA entry, indeed I did not perceive it to be a huge issue.
But within minutes of talking to Allen Bula I had a real feeling for an injustice that was hidden within European football. A decision rotten to its core, totally based on politics and not sport - something which goes against everything football stands for. From that moment on I pledged to help publicise their campaign - beginning with my initial feature on the subject.
Gibraltar first applied for UEFA membership in the late 1990s - but after their original application was lodged - UEFA changed their rules to read that only countries "recognised by the United Nations as an independent State" could become members. On such grounds, UEFA denied Gibraltar's application.
However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) twice ruled in Gibraltar's favour, leaving UEFA backed into a corner. Gibraltar gained provisional membership last year subject to Friday's vote at UEFA congress, which gave the Mediterranean outpost the green light.
Speaking after the decision, Bula revealed that that a nation's dreams had been granted.
"This is truly an historic day for everyone connected with Gibraltar, our nation as a whole," Bula admitted.
"This has been a really long road, but with the help of so many people - including yourselves - we have made it, and it is wonderful.
"So many times we could have been put off, told not to continue this battle - but we knew we were fighting a just cause and would never give up."
Suddenly Gibraltar are a footballing nation and will be involved in qualifying for Euro 2016 - with the qualifiers due to start next year.
"We will be partaking in Euro 2016, that has been the goal since we gained provisional membership and that is what we need to build for now."
Gibraltar will be aiming for its first game as a recognised UEFA member as early as next month.
"Obviously the calendars are full for most nations, but if someone is free - then we would be happy to play anyone at this stage," he continued.
Bula admitted that more players would become available to them now their participation in major competitions was confirmed.
"We hope that will be the case, playing against the big nations will help us lure players in," he admitted.
"But we have a good youth policy here and our youngsters have already proven recently against the likes of Ireland that they can compete, so that is the hope."
Within minutes of the announcement, Gibraltar also confirmed plans to build a new purpose-built stadium.
"We expect work to begin soon, it will be 10,000 all seater which is well above the UEFA minimum criteria which is 8,000," said an excited Bula.
"We will also have provision to expand that, but it will be a top-class venue which will also aid any of our teams who may be competing at Uefa level."