AND GIBRALTAR CELEBRATES NATIONS LEAGUE PROMOTION
Suffice to say the application of cash and liberal distribution of extra-large brown envelopes to recipients who continue to remain anonymous are rumoured to have played a part in Qatar getting the nod – a decision that has resulted in the tournament being switched from its traditional summer schedule and searing 48-centigrade degree heat to a much more manageable December climate, consequently effecting a mid-winter suspension of major European domestic football competitions – boy, those inducements must have been very bulky indeed!
Away from the less than fragrant whiff of politics and corruption and on to the playing field, England qualified for the finals with consummate ease and may yet be joined in April’s group draw by either Wales or Scotland who have been drawn in the same playoff pool with Austria and Ukraine, with just one nation progressing.
Red-hot World Cup action from Qatar’s seven newly built air-conditioned stadia in December, with kick-offs at boozer-friendly times of 16:00 and 20:00 (CET), mixed with the Christmas jingle bells is quite an intoxicating prospect, so lets get ready to rock and roll! Bung the missus an extra few quid for the shopping and get down the pub!
FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup
21st November – 18th December
ON THE HOME FRONT, pandemic permitting, Gibraltar can look forward to an exciting sports calendar, with football and darts topping the tasty menu.
Fresh from promotion to League C of the UEFA Nations League – a remarkable achievement that, sadly, received little fanfare, Julio César Ribas’s boys have been drawn in a far from formidable group containing Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Georgia, and the prospect of a positive points haul is much more realistic this time round than the recent World Cup campaign. Yes, Gibraltar’s Qatar 2022 qualification record of Played 10, Lost 10, goals for 4, goals conceded 43, at first glance appears to be poor, but that would be a tad harsh as the opposition contained world superpower the Netherlands along with top class footy nations Norway and Turkey, and there is little of that calibre to fear here.
The action kicks off with a helter-skelter schedule of four matches in June, starting with an away trip to Georgia, followed by two home ties when the visitors to the Victoria Stadium are North Macedonia and four days later group favourites Bulgaria come calling, with the fortnight’s frenetic action concluding with the reverse fixture to North Macedonia. Gibraltar will be seeking a first win against all three opponents, having played Georgia four times, North Macedonia twice and Bulgaria once, battling gamely but ultimately tasting defeat in all seven ties – but let’s not be too despondent, points can be gained in this group, especially in the home games.
Whatever the on-field results, the prime return for Gibraltar is continuing to introduce The Rock to the rest of the world through international competition – everybody is familiar with the Rock of Gibraltar – an iconic picture postcard destination that all have heard of but not that many have visited, a sun-kissed paradise, with a friendly populace eager to explore the wider world of sport, blessed with a first-class but sadly under-used airport. The curse of Covid has just delayed but definitely not derailed Visit Gibraltar, and sport continues to light the path in opening up hitherto seldom crossed frontiers.
Gibraltar’s 2022 UEFA Nations League
Thursday June 2nd Georgia v Gibraltar KO 17:00
Sunday June 5th Gibraltar v North Macedonia KO 17:00
Thursday June 9th Gibraltar v Bulgaria KO 19:45
Sunday June 12th North Macedonia v Gibraltar KO 17:00
Friday Sept 23rd Bulgaria v Gibraltar KO 19:45
Monday Sept 26th Gibraltar v Georgia KO 19:45
THE PDC European Darts Tour reaches an exciting finale on the Rock next autumn when the world’s top-ranked arrowsmiths step up to the ‘oche’ in the Gibraltar Darts Trophy that is due to be staged at Victoria Stadium.
World Number One and defending champion Gerwyn Price will be a short-priced favourite to retain the trophy and grab the lion’s share of the £140,000 prize fund, though the ex-rugby league star can expect stern slings and arrows from fellow Welshman Johnny Clayton, Dutch master “Mighty Mike” van Gerwen, Scottish duo Gary Anderson and Peter “The Parrot” Wright, plus Scouser and regular Rock visitor Stephen “The Bullet” Bunting.
A refreshing feature evident when the darts kingpins come visiting is their willingness to explore the Rock and mix freely with the locals, unlike stars of other sports who choose to stay aloof in their hotel rooms, often flying out immediately after their event has concluded. I well remember two years ago, Gerwyn Price, who a few months later would be crowned world champion, and who glories in the role of pantomime villain, sat at the bar in the Sports Arena, chatting amiably to everyone, and a few months ago, I was lucky enough to be in my local, The Quarterdeck Tavern, when Stephen Bunting wandered in with his charming family and regaled us for a couple of hours with derring-do tales from the world of darts. No prima donnas among these darting sharpshooters!
Gibraltar Darts Trophy
14-16th October – Victoria Stadium