- Capital: Gibraltar
- Official Languages: English
- Nicknames: Los Llanis; Team 54
- Association: Gibraltar Football Association (GFA)
- FIFA Code: GIB
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): N/A
- Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Women): N/A
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 190th (October 2018)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): N/A
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 206th (April 2017 – March 2018)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): N/A
- Most Capped Player: Liam Walker – 50 caps [as of Jan 2021]
- Top Scorer: Lee Casciaro – 3 goals [as of Jan 2021]
The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is one of newest teams to compete in international football. After some legal wrangling between both UEFA and FIFA, Los Llanos were finally accepted as UEFA’s 54th nation in 2013, whilst FIFA membership took a bit longer before being finally accepted (after the Court of Arbitration of Sport ruled in their favour against FIFA) in 2016. Prior to being accepted into UEFA & FIFA, the national sides would compete in regular Island Games football tournaments (despite not being an island) against other British Overseas Territories or Crown Dependencies like Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. They are currently the smallest UEFA member in terms of both population and land area.
Even though they have had a short existence in international football (and have yet to enter their women’s national team in UEFA/FIFA competitions), the Gibraltarians have not disgraced themselves despite being tagged as a ‘minnow’ team. In their first international, they managed a goalless draw with Slovakia, and have achieved numerous victories over teams at a similar standing to their own. So much so, that in their most recent UEFA Nations League campaign in League D, they stayed undefeated in their group to achieve promotion to League C of the European competition. Also, their clubs have achieved some modicum of success within the European club competitions, which has helped raised the UEFA coefficient ranking of the Gibraltar National League to 49th (out of 55 leagues).
To talk about one of international football’s newest and most intriguing sides, we interviewed the incredibly knowledgeable John McMillan. John is the head researcher of Gibraltarian football for the Football Manager game series, and so knows his stuff when it comes to football being played in the shadow of the imposing and iconic Rock. To find his social media accounts, follow the links below:
- John’s Twitter: @JohnMcM04582246
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Obviously the best manager has to be Julio Ribas. He’s taken Gibraltar to the next level by their performances in the UEFA Nations League and by developing young players. He’s our most successful manager since we joined UEFA and FIFA. The Uruguayan coach has managed many teams throughout his career, but his most famous club would be Peñarol [on two separate occasions] from his home country. He was Lincoln Red Imps manager between 2016 and 2018 before taking on the role of Gibraltar national team manager.
The best player I would have to say is either Liam Walker or Joseph Chipolina. Liam Walker has played for English Football League clubs like Portsmouth and Notts County, and has also played in the Israel Premier League. He is a gifted left footed playmaking midfielder who can deliver quality balls and takes a mean free-kick. He’s also Gibraltar’s record caps holder at present with 50 caps.
Joseph Chipolina is a left-sided defender or midfielder who has also played central defence for club and country. He started out in Spain, and had a season in USA, as well as having trials with clubs in England and Scotland including Hibernians. He’s currently at Gibraltar’s most successful club Lincoln Red Imps. He also scored goals in back-to-back games in the Nations League in 2018.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
The cult heroes have to be two players, Lee Casciaro and Roy Chipolina. At 39 and 37 years old respectively, they are still going strong for club and country having both played in our first ever recognised international game versus Slovakia in November 2013. On 29 March 2015, Lee scored Gibraltar’s first ever goal in a full international competitive match, netting an equalising goal against Scotland in an eventual 1-6 European Championship qualification loss at Hampden Park. Plus, not forgetting his winning goal in the Champions League when his side, Lincoln Red Imps famously defeated Scottish champions Celtic in 2016. For his services to sport in Gibraltar, he was awarded the Gibraltar Medallion of Distinction in August 2019.
Roy Chipolina, who is our very own ‘captain marvel’ is still captain when he plays for the national team, with his experience rubbing off on the younger players around them. Both inspirations for the part-time players with jobs, and players for the younger generation, to look up too.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Gibraltar national side currently?
Currently going off the last round of fixtures, it has to be Tjay DeBarr. He can cause any defence a problem with his pace and constant running as no defender likes to be up against real pace. He is a young player whom has just come back to Gibraltar after a season in Spain with the Real Oviedo B team, and currently has 2 international goals to his name in 20 appearances.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
We are on the up for a nation that is so small and inexperience at this level of football. To be promoted in the Nations League is a massive achievement and well done to everyone involved, we were and are very proud! The Nations League format is such a great tournament for the smaller nations across the world, giving them a chance to win international games which wasn’t possible previously. As for the state of the national team currently, Julio is giving young players a chance which is good for the future. We’re in a good place at the moment but we have tough 2022 World Cup qualifying group.
Q. Are there any Gibraltarian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
As I mentioned previously, Tjay DeBarr is one to watch certainly as he’s a livewire, but Gibraltar has plenty of young players to look out for. There is Dayle Coleing at 24 years old, who has joined Glentoran in Northern Ireland and is a great keeper who could have a very long career. Jayce Olivero is a 22 year-old left sided player who plays for Europa FC. He played in England with Abingdon United and recently captained the national team in a friendly against Malta. He also had trials with both West Ham United and Leicester City.
Other players to watch out for are:
- Louie Annesley – 20 year old central defender or midfielder is at Blackburn Rovers playing in there U23 team, and made his international debut at just 17.
- Graeme Torrilla – 23 year old central midfielder only making his international debut in 2020 after being out a year with a bad injury.
- Ethan Britto – a young versatile player who has had trials abroad. Made his debut at 15 in the Gibraltar National League with Lincoln Red Imps.
- Dylan Borge – a young 17 year old striker who is firing in the goals this season for Europa FC in the Gibraltar National League.
- Julian Del Rio – 18, scored a hat-trick in a U19s tournament versus Hong Kong, and is now in Spain at Cordoba B.
- Jaylan Hankins – 20 year old goalkeeper. Plays in Spain at Extremadura on loan from Cordoba and was with Las Palmas last season.
- Kian Ronan – 19 year old, and another player who can play defence or midfield. Was with Ipswich Town as a youngster before joining Manchester 62 and Lincoln Red Imps this past season.
Certainly, Gibraltar’s strongest position is without doubt the goalkeeper position.
Q. Looking at Gibraltar’s short international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
There are obviously a few highlights to mention, and that’s good to say despite being a nation so inexperienced in football terms:
- The first ever recognised international game, a 0-0 draw versus Slovakia on 19th November 2013.
- The first ever win in a friendly game 1-0 versus Malta 4th June 2014 – Kyle Casciaro with the winning goal.
- The first competitive away win 1-0 versus Armenia 13th October 2018 (my favourite). The team was amazing but Kyle Goldwin was unbelievable.
- The whole of the 2020 UEFA Nations League campaign where we got promoted from League D.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
One low point that particularly sticks to my mind is very early on in our history, when we got beat by the Republic of Ireland 7-0, and the manger subbed the keeper off, which was unfair on him. Then there is our biggest ever defeat, losing 9-0 to Belgium in 2017.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Gibraltar national team?
There are no low points as we’re so happy to be involved! So that answers both questions really.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
The fans have adopted Liverpool’s ‘ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ!‘ but in a Gibraltar style.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
My favourite Gibraltar shirt is actually the ones we currently have now. They are a cool and interesting design and go well with the modern game.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Gibraltar national team?
My hopes for the future is to grow the Gibraltar National League, which in turn will help the growth of the national team. We need to keep progressing and not go backwards, and keep giving games to the young talent that we have to showcase what they can do, and hopefully they can join teams in bigger leagues.
A massive thank you to John for answering our questions on the Los Llanis. Remember you can find his excellent accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.