I’ll blame the World Cup for this. In any other year, I would have been all over the start of UEFA Champions League 2014 qualifying ((and also the Europa League 2014 qualifying)) bringing you a thrill a minute from more grim Eastern European shitholes than you’d care to imagine. But World Cup or not, I couldn’t and can’t let this one slip by.
While looking at the soccerway.com website last week, the team name and the flag next to it caught my eye as it dawned on me that UEFA Champions League 2014 qualifying had already begun.
I’m pretty good at picking out obscure European flags, and can even distinguish Estonia from, say, San Marino, at a glance. But this flag was new, and the name seemed more like a pub team so I had to check it out.
What I was seeing was the first time entrant from Gibraltar in the Champions League. Earlier last year, UEFA granted Gibraltar membership status and it’s teams can now play in the Champions League and the Europa League. Gibraltar will also field a national team for the first time for the upcoming Euro 2016 that France is hosting.
Gibraltar, for those keeping score at Aunt Mary’s Hooterville Inn, has a population of around 30,000 or so. Which makes it the size of West Bend or Sun Prairie Wisconsin. There we go…. imagine that Sun Prairie is no longer a suburb of Madison, but a nation unto itself and minus the iconic Rock, of course ((although iconic American artist Georgia O’Keefe hailed from Sun Prairie, but it’s not the same)). okay, Sun Prairie would have 2 complete leagues of football teams, with playoffs, relegation, promotion and all that….plus a national team that if Sun Prairie were a nation would compete in CONCACAF with the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico and so on….just like Gibraltar will do in Europe with Scotland, Belgium, Poland, Kazakhstan ((yes, Kazakhstan competes in Europe)), Ireland, Germany, and mighty San Marino.
Anyway, the Lincoln Red Imps qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2014 qualifying by winning the Gibraltar Premier Division with a 6 point spread over 2nd place Manchester United. Funny and ha ha I suppose to some ((like me)) but the reality is is that the club will now be known as Manchester 62 FC from now on so as to avoid an obvious confusion with their namesake whose great manager Sir Matt Busby granted the club permission to use it’s name in homage back in 1962. Anyway, there’s no confusion with their namesake this year, since neither club qualified for European competition. Normally, Manchester 62 FC might have been eligible for Europa League by winning or finishing second in the Rock Cup…but they got knocked off by College Europa in the semi-final 0-0 with College Europa advancing on pens to play Lincoln Red Imps in the final. The Red Imps won 1-0, but since they were qualified for for the Champions League qualifiers by virtue of winning the League, College Europa went to the Europa League qualifiers where they played Vaduz, Liechtenstein who plies their trade in Switzerland’s premier division, but qualified for Europa by virtue of winning Liechtenstein’s FL1 Active Cup. Vaduz capped of 3-0 win at home with a 0-1 win in Gibraltar and move on to play Ruch Chorzów. That’s in Poland in case you’re wondering.
The Red Imps, meanwhile, played a plucky 1-1 draw at the Victoria Stadium right next to Gibraltar’s airport ((and I might RIGHT next to it)) so you could watch airplanes and football at the same time. Then it was off to Torshavn on the Faroe Islands where the lads from Havnar Bóltfelag Tórshavn hammered the visitors 5-2 and move on to their quite certain fate at the hands of Partizan Belgrade ((which is not my favourite team from Serbia)).
So that’s it for Gibraltar for this year. But with great tilts like Derry City vs FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk to look forward to I’m sure we’ll find a wee bit to talk about there. And with BATE Borosov vs KS Skënderbeu Korçë looming, and all I can say is, wow!!
Yes, that’s all I can say.
And now, I’ll see if I can recover a few bits of verbiage to describe what happened at the World Cup this week, namely THIS:
Not even the Gargoyles and their various allies and adversaries can believe what they’ve witnessed….and they’ve witnessed a lot over the years
Obviously, I’m expected to say something about this, since this was the most remarkable game, event, whatever the fock it was, of World Cup 2014….but I’m afraid to say that a remark still wont come to me.
Little children in tears 29 minutes into a match. A nation with such a gloried history and so many expectations riding on it shamed and humiliated on it’s home turf.
No one expected this. No one.
I did expect Germany to win this. But not like this.
Yeh…Neymar was out, but that wouldn’t have mattered. Neymar doesn’t play defense. A bigger loss for Brazil in this game was that Thiago Silva was suspended because of accumulated yellow cards. His absence was striking, but I wonder if even his presence could have stemmed the tide. I suppose if he’d been in the lineup, the match would have been close to the 2-1, 3-1 German win that I’d expected.
But who knows.
What happened, happened. But whatever it was that we witnessed last Tuesday, I’m still not sure what to say about it.
So I’ll end it today with this:
R.I.P. Tommy Ramone 1952-2014