Captain Roy Chipolina said that "to play in Gibraltar's first international is a dream come true" ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Slovakia in Faro, Portugal.
Gibraltar, with a population of almost 30,000, became UEFA's 54th member national association in May. While their Under-17 side have already participated in Gibraltar's first-ever UEFA competition, the seniors make their debut at the Estádio Algarve on Tuesday. It is a fixture that comes after preparatory matches against British teams such as Notts County FC, Portsmouth FC, Charlton Athletic FC and Hibernian FC.
"It's just amazing,
I still can't believe we are actually in UEFA and I can't wait to play," said defender Chipolina. "My final words to the team will be to enjoy it. It's a historic moment for the players and for the whole of Gibraltar – we should all try to enjoy the moment as much as we can."
Despite comprising mostly amateurs who combine their football with a full-time job, the squad have been boosted by the addition of two seasoned professionals in the form of Scott Wiseman of Barnsley FC and Danny Higginbotham – who started his career at Manchester United FC – from Chester FC.
"In my view the team is mentally prepared for the challenge," said coach Allen Bula. "In Portugal we had a double training session on Sunday and Monday, all based on tactical work – we are looking good. We had Danny [Higginbotham] arrive on Sunday which gave everyone a nice lift. We also have a full squad to work with.
"Everything has gone well so far, the motivation is there and the players are taking it very seriously, but we are coming up against a very tough nation. Slovakia are at a level most of our players have never experienced so we have to be careful and make sure we compete. We know what we have to do – stick to our game plan and it should be a good match. There are no words to describe the occasion. It's going to be really emotional for me, but I still want to win."
Europe's youngest football nation appear to have genuine belief they can make a mark. Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) president Desmond Reoch is "quietly confident" the Rock's side can return with a "respectable result". It promises to be some journey.
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