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Gibraltar geared up for maiden international

Captain Roy Chipolina has described his country's first international, against Slovakia on Tuesday, as "a historic moment for the players and the whole of Gibraltar".

Gibraltar captain Roy Chipolina
Gibraltar captain Roy Chipolina ©UEFA.com

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.