Gibraltar are Europe's 54th football nation

UEFA Congress accept Gibraltar as official football nation and they will be able to enter qualifying for 2016 Euros.

    Gibraltar are Europe's 54th football nation
    Britain's Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge (L), speaks during the UEFA Congress in central London [AFP]

    Gibraltar was finally accepted as a member of European soccer's governing body UEFA on Friday, allowing their national team and clubs to enter to take part in international competition.

    UEFA's annual Congress voted in favour of a motion to allow the tiny British colony to become their 54th member.

    Gibraltar, which was granted provisional membership last October, first applied for UEFA membership in 1999 but had faced fierce opposition from Spain.

    In the past, Spain have threatened to boycott any competition in which teams from Gibraltar take part.

    "This is a momentous moment for us... It means we can now begin the next chapter of Gibraltar football "

    - President of the Gibraltar FA, Gareth Latin

    "This is a momentous moment for us," Gareth Latin, president of the Gibraltar FA, told the UEFA Congress.

    "It means we can now begin the next chapter of Gibraltar football."

    Gibraltar's case was strengthened in 2011 by a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling that UEFA have to consider its membership. 

    Their teams will first feature in the qualifying competitions for the 2014 European under-17 and under-19 championships.
     
    Gibraltar have been drawn against England, Armenia and Ireland in the under-17 qualifiers and Croatia, Czech Republic and Cyprus in the under-19 tournaments. 

    Their first full international competition is likely to be the qualifiers for Euro 2016.

    Spain still claims sovereignty over Gibraltar after it was ceded to Britain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

    An edict from the Consejo Superior de Deportes to all sports federations in Spain says they should block any membership application from organisations in Gibraltar.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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