Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gibraltar v Slovakia. A rare chance to witness the competitive debut of a national side

Tonight sees the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar make its debut in competitive international football with a friendly against Slovakia.
And, gloriously, it'll be live on the internet

While not yet a full member of Fifa, Gibraltar were accepted into Uefa in May this year, and will subsequently be attempting to qualify for the 2016 European Championships. Their name will be one to watch out for when the draw is made on 23 February 2014. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to want them to be drawn in your country's group. Regardless of whether it may or may not prove to be an straightforward six points, the chance to hone in on their early fixtures as they try and get some sort of respectable side together should be a real pleasure.

Gibraltar's national stadium is not considered suitable for Uefa fixtures, so they are having to play their games at Estádio Algarve in Portugal for the time being. The game with Slovakia tonight kicks off at 6.30pm UK time (7.30pm local time) and will be broadcast live online by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). GBC are a public service broadcaster, so hopefully that'll mean no advertising or spammy pop-ups to interrupt our viewing. Here's a link.

This means that any England fans planning to watch the friendly with Germany (or, for that matter, France v Ukraine or Sweden v Portugal) could tune in for an enjoyable first half of Gibraltar v Slovakia online before settling down in front of the TV.

I for one am planning on tuning in (provided public transport delivers me home from work in a timely manner). How often do you get to witness live the first tentative steps of a new international team? And, who knows, if the Gibraltar game is exciting then England v Germany might just have to be watched on catch-up a little later in the evening?

Gibraltar fans celebrate their acceptance into Uefa.
Of course, a Slovakia win is extraordinarily likely, but anything could happen. The Faroe Islands beat Canada in their second ever competitive match in April 1989. Actually beat them! SÍF Sandavágur midfielder Torkil Nielsen (also a fine chess player, according to Wikipedia) scored his country's first ever competitive goal as the Faroes gained their maiden victory against the unfortunate Canadians.

And lowly Tajikistan, in their first ever World Cup qualifying campaign in 1996-97, lost just once in qualifying (to China), and twice handed out 4-0 gubbings to Vietnam. They really weren't a million miles away from qualifying for France 1998 – glorious stuff.

Could Gibraltar get a result against Slovakia tonight? Their opponents have some eye-catching names in their squad, including Martin Škrtel, Marek Hamšík and Vladimír Weiss, so ultimately it's hugely unlikely. One bookmaker will even give you enormous 50/1 odds on a Gibraltar win. But just the chance to see it all get underway is a treat.

The Guardian have previewed the game here.

And, for good measure, here's Metro's "Six things you didn't know about Gibraltar’s national football team".

Tune in here from the wonderfully obscure programme start time of 6.22pm (UK time). It should be fun.

Apologies for originally listing the kick-off time here as 7pm. The BBC (among others) listed the wrong kick-off time.