Monday, 11 February 2013

International players wanted?

As Gibraltar limbers up for a potential full international debut this spring, the Rock's football association is on the look-out for players.

Gibraltar - seen above warming up at the 2011 Island games - was made a temporary UEFA member last October and the last month the Rock’s futsal side posted their maiden victory in qualifiers for the UEFA 2014 Futsal Championships with a 7-5 win over San Marino.

Gibraltar exited that tournament and, even if the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) are admitted to UEFA, are unlikely to play competitive internationals before the qualifiers for Euro 2016, which is in France, but Allen Bula, is getting prepared. He says: “I am trying to find players in UK that have a connection with Gibraltar, either born here or parents born here or strong family ties.”

Gibraltar has a population of just 29,000, which would give the colony the smallest pool of potential members of any UEFA member.

Tony Macedo made more than 300 appearances in goal for Fulham in the late 1950s and early 1960s and also appeared for the England Under-23 team. Striker Tim Buzaglo also played semi-professionally for Woking in the 1990s but more recently few Gibraltarians have played professionally.

Some of the current team have played in the lower Spanish leagues but only on a part-time basis as the wages outside La Liga are so poor.

Most of the Gibraltar side have public sector jobs on the Rock. Players like captain Joseph Chipolina (below in red) are not willing to give up the safety of these positions for the uncertainty of the paltry wages offered by smaller Spanish clubs or the chance of relocating to England.

Striker and customs officer Lee Casciaro has been approached by so many Football League clubs that he cannot bear speaking about the subject any more.

The only member of the Gibraltar side playing professionally overseas is Liam Walker, who is playing in League One for struggling Portsmouth, but Bula’s nephew is Sheffield United defender Danny Higgingbotham.

Bula will be hoping to find more players of their quality to supplement the likes of local talents Casciaro and Roy Chipolina (no relation to Joseph) as Gibraltar's manager looks to produce a competitive side to take on Europe’s best.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Surprise Island Games entrants?

A club side from the Isle of Man are in negotiations with the IoM Football Association to represent the Manxmen in the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda. 

Four teams - the hosts, Greenland, the Falkland Islands and Froya - were confirmed yesterday as the only entrants so far by the organisers, who hoped to add a fifth, as yet un-named side, to the line-up. Malcolm Blackburn of St John's United has revealed that his side could yet travel to Hamilton.

He says: "St Johns United Football Club in the Isle of Man has put itself forward to take part in the Island Games in Bermuda and has been accepted by Bermuda but is awaiting a decision from the Isle of Man Football Association which should be received next week.
"So fingers crossed and there could be a team from the Isle of Man joining the other four confirmed entries."

St John's United are currently second in the Canada Life Premier Division. The club won the Isle of Man FA Cup in 1971–72 and 1975–76 and have been second division champions on four occasions.

The Island Games football tournament has been decimated by the organisers decision to take the tournament out of Europe for the first time. What has been a 16-team tournament in recent years will in 2013 have its smallest ever entry due mainly to the cost of getting to Bermuda.

The Isle of Man are regular participants in the tournament and have been runners-up on three occasions, in  1993, 1999 and 2003. Two years ago in the Isle of Wight, the Manxmen lost a play-off to Minorca to finish eighth.

If St John's United's negotiations are successful, that ranking will certainly be improved on. With a weak field, St John's will have a good chance of emulating the national team's three final spots.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Island Games Line-up

The Island Games Association’s decision to take their biennial multi-sports tournaments out of Europe for the first time this year means that just four teams will compete in the football event. The only confirmed entrants are the hosts Bermuda, the Falkland Islands, Greenland and a side from the Norwegian isle of Froya.

IGA regulations state that to host a team sport there must be at least six entrants, but an exception is being made in 2013. Island Games spokesman Jon Beard says: “We have left the door open and are working on at least more team [but] we don’t need this extra team for the tournament to go ahead.”

The Cayman Islands had reportedly been intending to send a team and seem the most likely late entrant out of the IGA’s 24 members.

The 2007 winners Gibraltar are staying at home as they prepare for their long-running application to join UEFA goes to a vote at the European governing body’s annual congress in London on May 24.

For the other swathe of teams that stayed at home, the travel costs of getting to the British Atlantic territory provided just too much.

The holders and last hosts the Isle of Wight (pictured above playing Gibraltar at East Cowes in  2011) will not be travelling. Jersey – the only team to win the tournament on three separate occasions, in 1993, 1997 and 2009 – are staying at home. Guernsey won the tournament twice in 2001 and 2003 but are competing in the English Combined Counties Premier Division.

After being disqualified for poor on-field behavior in 2011, Rhodes were not expected to even be invited but a tournament that in recent years had regularly featured a field of 16 has been decimated.

Even the participation of the Falkland Islands had been in doubt at one point. To send a football side from the isolated south Atlantic outpost costs around £3,000 per player and the territory’s government is understood to have stepped in with £40,000 contribution towards travel costs for the Falkland party.

Ian Betts, who has replaced 2011 coach Richard Franks as manager of the Falkland football squad, also had a more prosaic problem: first choice goalkeeper Ben Hoyles (pictured below in action in 2011 against Gotland) initially said he would not be going to Hamilton.

That would be a blow to a side that has been unbeaten so far in their preparations for Bermuda in a series of warm-up matches against sides from the armed forces on the islands. Hoyles, the first choice Falkland keeper two years ago in the Isle of Wight - is understood to have had a change of mind, but Adam Glanville – the St Helenian who has been one of his side’s outstanding defender in recent Island Games tournaments – is not expected to travel.

Patrick Watts, former chairman of the Falkland Islands Football League, says: “The games have been against Military teams at the Base so nothing too spectacular. It is difficult to find a competitive match these days as there are not as many Army men here as there was previously and the RAF personnel do not seem to be as keen as the Army and Navy in terms of playing football.”

When the Island Games comes back to Europe in 2015, a revival is likely in terms of entrants but this year should at least produce some new medalists. The Falkland Islands, Greenland and Froya have never been close to a medal at the Island Games. That will change this year.