Gibraltar admitted to UEFA despite Spain protests

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The Rock was rocking and Spain was outraged after UEFA admitted Gibraltar into its football fold. The British dependency that is a permanent source of disgruntlement in Spain becomes the 54th member of the European federation. UEFA will ensure it is kept apart from Spain in qualifers.

Gibraltar had applied on previous occasions and been rejected. In 2009, Spain threatened to withdraw from all UEFA competitions if Gibraltar was admitted. In the face of such opposition, UEFA had not been keen on admitting Gibraltar but was forced into the decision after the Rock won a case at the court of arbtration for sport.

Spain had opposed admission on dual grounds, firstly because it considers the Rock should be part of Spain and secondly through concerns that it might open up applications from autonomous regions within Spain, notably Catalonia and the Basque country. They could point at the example of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as UEFA members that were not independent nation states (at least, not yet).

For grass-roots football in Gibraltar it was a huge event. "This is a momentous occasion for football in Gibraltar," Gareth Latin, president of the Gibraltar FA, said. "UEFA membership means that we can begin the next chapter of Gibraltarian football. At last we'll be able to show the whole of Europe that we can match the best with football of a high standard and entertaining style."

That might be a little premature. It's unlikely that Gibraltar will immediately be challenging the Spanish and the Germans for supremacy in Europe. In fact there are many observers of international football who believe that such minnows clog up the fixture list with one-sided and meaningless qualifiers and want to introduce a system of pre-qualifying.

That wasn't going to dampen Latin's enthusiasm. "This will open up a whole new world of opportunities for our highly skilled young footballers," he said. "This is one of our greatest sporting moments."

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