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Gibraltar: Celebrating ten years of UEFA membership


Wednesday 24 May 2023 may have seemed like any other Wednesday to most footballing fans around the world, everywhere except in Gibraltar, where the day marked the tenth anniversary of the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) being admitted as a UEFA member.

Tenth anniversary dinner held at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar
Tenth anniversary dinner held at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar GFA

It was on 24 May 2013, at UEFA’s 37th Ordinary Congress in London that Gibraltar was finally admitted as UEFA’s 54th member association, a journey that had taken more than 20 years, since May 1991, when the then GFA president, Andrew Perera, had first written to FIFA seeking membership.

When FIFA referred former GFA president Joseph Nuñez to UEFA in 1999, a long and arduous legal process began, which ended up with Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rulings in favour of the Gibraltar FA and, finally, UEFA membership being accepted at the UEFA Congress in 2013. The Gibraltar FA president at that time, Gareth Latin, said in his acceptance speech: “What matters most for us has prevailed.”

Significant day

Becoming a member of UEFA on 24 May 2013 was the most significant day in the long history of the Gibraltar FA, which began way back in 1895 when the association was founded. One of the ten oldest football associations in the world had finally gained international recognition. Instantly, Gibraltarians at home and abroad could start dreaming of supporting their own national teams, in all age groups, in officially sanctioned matches (both friendlies and competitive matches) instead of having to adopt another national team to follow.

Gibraltarian clubs were now able to compete in UEFA competitions and the gateway to their professionalisation was well and truly opened. Their performances in UEFA Champions League qualifiers, Europa League qualifiers and, latterly, in the Europa Conference League, right through to the group stages of the mainv competition, have been nothing short of sensational.

Historic moments

On the pitch, the past ten years have been filled with historic moments. The association continues to work hard in developing grassroots, youth and women’s football, as well as futsal – and its coaching and refereeing departments are all developing rapidly – while simultaneously using football as a force for good within the local community with its school programmes and charity events.

That watershed moment ten years ago changed Gibraltarian football forever and signalled the dawn of a new professional era for Gibraltarian football. Rounded off by FIFA membership in 2016, the GFA has revolutionised all its operational, administrative and sporting structuresm to rapidly develop into a young, modern and forward-thinking organisation.

As with all associations, there are challenges ahead, but in the words of our current president, Michael Llamas: “The one thing that unites Gibraltarians is their passion for Gibraltarian football and that uniting factor is what will drive us forward into the next decade of UEFA membership.”

This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct 202