Sport

Youth Football Christmas Tournament

in Sport Insight

Proves to be a great success

Ahead of the festive break, the Gibraltar Football Association organised a very successful Christmas Tournament for all of Gibraltar’s young footballers from the ages of six to sixteen. 

Under the guidance of the association’s new Youth Football leadership team, the weekend long tournament was centered around a community and family atmosphere with fun themed activities on offer, off the pitch, in the Victoria Stadium’s MUGA area as well as food and refreshment provided for all players taking part in the tournament. The aim of the weekends was a simple one – to give Gibraltar’s young footballers an enjoyable competitive footballing send-off ahead of their Christmas break.  

As is customary, at all Gibraltar FA organised youth football events and matches, Association Delegates were on hand to ensure the tournament run smoothly and First Aiders were in attendance at all times.    

In what proved to be something of a first in youth football locally, in recent times, the strongest teams in certain age groups were moved up a ‘level’ (age group) to play against older children. This would allow them to challenge their skill sets and also to make each tournament more and more competitive. 

Depending on the amount of teams and players, each age group had its own bespoke tournament in the traditional 5 or 7 aside formats and tailored at giving each team the maximum amount of playing time.  

Tournament organisers Scott Wiseman and Jansen Moreno were delighted with the way the tournament and weekend as a whole went, with over 400 youngsters taking part across all the different age groups, and are already looking at laying the groundwork for future tournaments throughout year and commented:

“On behalf of everyone at the Gibraltar FA, we would like to thank everyone involved in the tournament for making the weekend so successful and especially to our match officials, referees and delegates who dealt with the whole weekend programme tremendously given the different formats, age groups and matches. 

A huge thanks must also go to our clubs who instantly bought into the idea and to all of the parents for supporting the tournament throughout the weekend. We are already looking at how we can incorporate tournaments like this on a more regular basis throughout this year and beyond so that we can begin to ensure our youngsters are playing as much football as possible.”

QATAR WORLD CUP DOMINATES 2022

in Sport Insight

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
Fixtures

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

The sports story of 2021

in Features/Sport Insight

A year of tears, fears and recovery

PLANET Earth’s struggle to shed the shackles of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic is at last showing signs of success and, as always, sport leads the way on the road back to normality. Come with me as we take a look at the highs and lows of this desperate year.

JANUARY

3rd: Death of Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers, forever synonymous with what is probably the world’s best known football anthem, Liverpool FC’s You’ll Never Walk Alone, passed away aged 78 after a short illness, believed to be cardiac related.

Darts crowned the year’s first world champion when Wales’s Gerwyn Price secured the PDC title for the first time, the pugnacious ex-rugby league star comfortably overcoming Scotland’s Gary Anderson 7-3 at London’s Ally Pally.

25th: Chelsea sack coach and club legend Frank Lampard.

FEBRUARY

5th: Scotland win rugby’s Calcutta Cup, stunning England 11-6 and ending 38 years of anguish since Bonnie Prince Charley’s troops last prevailed over the ‘auld enemy’ at Twickenham.

7th: Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset defending champions Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 to lift the Super  Bowl. A 30-second TV advert during the event cost an astonishing £4 million.

20th: Japan’s Naomi Osaka won her second Australia Open beating American Jennifer Brady in straight sets in the women’s final in Melbourne.

21st: Novak Djokovic outclassed Russian Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win his ninth Australian Tennis Open.

27th: Wales wallop England 40-24 in Cardiff  to win rugby union’s Triple Crown for the 22nd time in an exciting game marred by some controversial refereeing decisions.

MARCH

1st: Liverpool icon and legendary TV sports presenter Ian St John passed away after a long illness, aged 82.

7th: Snooker’s world number one Judd Trump retained his Gibraltar Open crown, whitewashing Jack Lisowski 4-0 in the final that, because of Covid lockdown, had been switched to Milton Keynes.

13th: One of boxing’s true greats ‘Marvellous’ Marvin Hagler passes away, the fearsome shaven-headed legend is counted out at age 66.

16th: Rachael Blackmore, riding Honeysuckle, becomes the first female to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Charismatic Rachael went on to finish top rider at the festival.

19th: The Cheltenham Gold Cup returned to Ireland as Minella Indo, ridden by Jack Kennedy at odds of  9/1, won steeplechasing’s Blue Riband event.

20th: Death claimed Leeds United legend Peter “Hotshot” Lorimer, aged 74.

24th: Gibraltar’s international goalkeeper Dayle Edward Coeling, who at the time plied his trade with Irish club Glentoran, made Fifa’s Team of the Round, following a truly herculean performance for his country in the 3-0 World Cup qualifier loss to Norway at the Victoria Stadium.

26th: Wales are confirmed as rugby union’s Six Nations champions when closest opponents France were sensationally beaten 23-27 in Paris by Scotland.

27th: Gibraltar was the venue as Londoner Dillian Whyte avenged last year’s surprise defeat to Alexander Petovkin in the Rumble on the Rock rematch, impressively stopping the Russian in the 4th round.

APRIL

10th: Three weeks after becoming top rider at the Cheltenham Festival, Rachael Blackmore created further history by becoming the first female to win the Grand National, the Tipperary girl giving a masterful performance on board 11/1 shot Minella Times.

11th: Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese golfer to win a Major title, sparking wild celebration in his native nation when the 29-year-old donned the famous green jacket of The Masters at Augusta.

25th: Manchester City created history when winning the Cariboo League Cup for the fourth time in a row, beating woeful Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in a disappointing Wembley final, at which Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted sufficiently to allow 8,000 spectators to attend..

MAY

3rd: Mark Selby won his fourth World Snooker Championship, the 38-year-old Leicester man comfortably defeating Shaun Murphy 18-15 at Sheffield’s Crucible. 

11th: Manchester City are crowned Premier League champions with three games to spare when nearest pursuers Manchester United are beaten at home by Leicester, making it mathematically impossible for Pep Guardiola’s brilliant side to be caught.

15th Leicester City won the FA Cup for the first time, beating Chelsea 1-0 in the final at Wembley.

26th: Heartache for the Red Devils as Villareal snatch the Europa League Cup from Manchester United’s grasp after an unforgettable 11-10 penalty shootout in the final at Gdansk, Poland.

29th: Underdogs Chelsea win their second Champions League title, stunning Manchester City 1-0 in the final in Oporto, Portugal.

JUNE

5th Adayar wins the Epsom Derby at 16/1, giving jockey Adam Kirby his first success in the classic.

12th Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic was a surprise winner of  the French Ladies Tennis Open, beating Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final.

13th Peerless Serb Novak Djokovic roared back from two sets down to win the French Men’s Open, his 19th grand slam, overcoming Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic five-set final.

20th Spanish golfer Jon Rahm nets his first major title when winning the US Open at Torrey Pines.

JULY

10th Australian Ash Barty was crowned Wimbledon Ladies champion beating Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in an entertaining three-set final.

11th: Novak Djokovic claimed his 20th Grand Slam when capturing  the Wimbledon Men’s title, outpointing promising Italian Matteo Berrettini in a four-set final.

Heartbreak for England as Italy come from behind to win the pandemic-delayed Euro 2020 final at Wembley, the Three Lions succumbing on penalties after extra-time, their old bogey, spotkicks, once again proving their downfall.

18th: American Collin Morikawa captures the British Open golf championship at Royal St George’s with an impressive 15-under par total taking him two shots clear of the field.

Lewis Hamilton overcame a 10-second penalty, imposed  for a shunt that put chief rival Max Verstappen out of the race and taken to hospital, to controversially win the British F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone.

23rd: The 2020 Summer Olympics finally got underway in Tokyo after being delayed for a year by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

August

7th: South Africa rather fortuitously sealed a 2-1 series win over the touring British and Irish Lions with a gritty 19-16 victory in the final Test in Capetown.

8th: The curtain came down on the Tokyo Olympics and, despite the restrictions imposed to combat Covid-19 resulting in mainly spectatorless events, there were many sparkling performances. Team GB equalled the total medal haul of 65 achieved in the London 2012 Games.

11th: Chelsea added the European Super Cup to their Champions League title, beating Villareal at Windsor Park Belfast. The match had ended 1-1 after extra time and the Londoners held their nerve to pip the Spanish side 6-5 in a bottom-clenching penalty shootout.

25th: Fondly remembered as Lord Ted, former England cricket captain Ted Dexter passed away, aged 86.

SEPTEMBER

5th: Gibraltar celebrated as local rower Jack Prior helped Team GB win the European U23 Eight Rowing Championship in Kruszwica, Poland.

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics concluded with Team GB amassing an outstanding haul of 124 medals, a total that saw the Brits finish second in the overall medal table, behind China but ahead of both the United States and Russia.

11th: Bromley schoolgirl Emma Raducanu astonished the tennis world by winning the US Open, the 18-year-old qualifier incredibly capturing the title in New York without conceding a single set in her fairytale 10-match run to glory.

12th: Russian Daniil Medvedev ended Novak Djokovic’s brave bid to win all four slams in a calendar year when beating the great Serb in straight sets in the US Open final.

19th: One of football’s brightest stars was extinguished as England and Spurs legend Jimmy Greaves passed away, aged 81.

26th: Team USA trashed Europe 19-9 when regaining the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, serving ominous notice that Uncle Sam’s youngsters look assured to arrest Europe’s dominance of recent years.

OCTOBER

9th: Tyson Fury survived two 4th Round knockdowns to stop  Deontay Wilder in the 11th in Las Vegas, completing a  clean sweep for the Gypsy King in the fight trilogy between the two warriors. Surely there won’t be a Fury-Wilder-4, they’re catching up Rocky!

10th: France come from behind to beat Spain 2-1 in a high-quality Euro Nations League final in the San Siro, Milan.

26th: Revered Rangers and Scotland ex-player and manager Walter Smith passes away, aged 73.

NOVEMBER

11th: Steven Gerrard announced as Aston Villa manager after a very successful spell resurrecting Glasgow Rangers’ fortunes.

14th: Australia win cricket’s ICC T20 World Cup for the first time, chasing down a record target of 179 to beat neighbours New Zealand in the final in Dubai.

Word by Roger Shrapnel


How do you define the values of a sport?

We all understand the concept of fair play in sports, but the international rugby community has always prided itself on something more than just that. Defining those values is difficult but worthwhile and a number of rugby organisations, from the national bodies and unions down to individual clubs, have taken the time and effort to do just that, especially over the last couple of decades as the concept of ‘rugby values’ have become more, well, valued. This has given us a rich variety of value sets across the rugby planet, each with their own cultural take on the matter but, by and large, they are generally similar. 

Incidentally, one of the beauties of having a consistent set of values across the globe is that no matter where you end up, if you want to play or watch rugby you will be doing with likeminded people who will welcome you, even if you’re wearing the opposition colours!

So what are these rugby values and how do they fit in with rugby in Gibraltar?

Recently, Gibraltar Rugby Football Union underwent a restructuring programme and, as part of this, they set down their own set of rugby core values using the acronym R.I.D.E.; Respect, Inclusion, Discipline, Enjoyment. And on the surface of it, that sounds quite neat, but it is worth considering the impact of these values and their effect, not only in rugby but in the wider community that lives on the Rock and beyond.

The enjoyment experienced by the participants, coaches and many volunteers that make up Gibraltar rugby could be regarded as the ‘pay-off’ of the other three elements that make up the GRFU’s rugby values system. Certainly, given the numbers and recent growth, not just in players but in qualified coaches as well, there is plenty of evidence that people are enjoying themselves. On a Saturday morning you will regularly see around two hundred children, from 2 years old to under 17s, training and playing on the rugby pitches at Europa Sports Complex.

The GRFU is rightly proud of these numbers and it is the inclusiveness that you see in rugby which helps drive this. Rugby is often said to be a game for all shapes and sizes so any new player that turns up is welcomed with open arms. The sport is very good at finding your special talent or strength and developing it so that you become an essential part of the team. It runs deeper than that though. Go to any rugby club and you will not only find that range of body types and skill sets, but a massive diversity of people. Most teams will contain young bucks and seasoned campaigners. Coppers rub shoulders with students. Senior managers will share a pint with shop workers. You see this with the youngsters as well as they develop social networks outside of the usual school and family environment as they learn to play alongside and rely upon each other in a game.

It goes without saying that a lot of this only works with a degree of discipline. Rugby is a physically and mentally demanding sport with many specialised skill sets. The players have to be mindful of this and how they apply themselves, both in training and in the game. The reward here is that they will improve as players and develop as individuals. Rugby is often held up as a bastion of good sportsmanship and a lot of that can be attributed to the discipline and respect shown on the pitch, not least to the referee and the laws of the game. There is a wonderful story of a referee awarding penalty against a 120kg international player during a game where the player responded with a meek “Sorry, sir.” 

Respect is very much entwined with the values outlined earlier; respect for the referee but also to the opposition. Rugby has a great tradition of both teams applauding each other after the final whistle and sharing a drink with your opposite number in the clubhouse bar. 

Respect isn’t limited to just the pitch; with rugby’s natural drive to socialise, it spills over into other areas of a participant’s life. With the recent increase of both community and environmental awareness across society, volunteers from all sections are regularly involved in charitable endeavours to improve the world around them, respecting their environment and the people in it. Rock Scorpions raised money during the 2020 Movember prostate cancer awareness campaign whilst other individuals have tapped into the natural generosity of the union membership to raise money for other worthwhile causes like the Sepsis Trust or the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Benevolent Fund. The Mini and Youth section have been particularly active in this area where the players and parents have worked on more than one occasion with the Nautilus Project on environmental improvement works, like local beach clean-ups, and fundraisers for Childline.

 At a recent coach development course, where the GRFU brought in academy coaches from a Rugby Premiership club in England, the lead coach talked about developing players, especially young players, as people, not just rugby players. This is very much part of the culture within Gibraltar Rugby. Long may it remain that way.


Gibraltar’s U19s make their International Futsal Debut

Gibraltar’s Under 19s made they competitive international debut, at the beginning of November, as they hosted their UEFA U19 Futsal Euro Preliminary Round Qualifying Group at the Tercentenary Sports Hall.

Group B in the Preliminary Round, drawn earlier on in the year, would throw up North Macedonia and Montenegro as Gibraltar’s U19 Futsal Euro opponents. Interestingly, two nations who have visited the Rock in the past in various other UEFA competitions, both in football and futsal. 

Before a ball was kicked, Montenegro were arguably the pre-tournament favourites, and as had been decided by the draw, they would be up against Gibraltar first, in other words a baptism of fire for the Group hosts in international U19 Futsal. 

However, under the expert guidance of Gibraltar’s Futsal Head Coach Jose Carlos Gil Prieto, Gibraltar got off to a flying start. Spurred on by the noisy and raucous home crowd, Gibraltar were 2-0 up after 11 minutes and indeed went into the half time break 2 up. In the second half Montenegro U19s had calmed down and began to show their class. As the game developed the visitors scored 6 unanswered goals to lead 6-2. A late rally by Gibraltar saw the U19s pull one goal back to meaning their first ever international was an extremely positive 6-3 defeat. 

The second match of the tournament saw Montenegro beat North Macedonia 2-0, justifying their tag as pre-tournament favourites, meaning they clinched Group B and progressed into the main qualifying round of the UEFA U19 Futsal Euro.           

That meant the final game of the group, North Macedonia v Gibraltar was a straight shootout for second place. Once again Gibraltar’s youngsters took the lead, however this time their opponents, North Macedonia, hit back immediately and began to stamp their authority in the game racing into a 4-1 lead. With 5 minutes to go Gibraltar wrestled back the initiative pulling a goal back and immediately deploying their ‘flying’ goalkeeper. What followed was a 3-minute onslaught on the Macedonian goal, but chance after chance was squandered and wasted by the hosts. 4-2 the final score to the visitors. 

Despite the two losses, Gibraltar’s U19s have plenty of positives to take from their international bow. Many for the players in the squad are still young in the U19 age category so they will get a second chance at this level in two years’ time and their performances have proved that they can look forward to a bright futsal future!     

An Overview of why Gibraltar Rugby Football Union restructured its Governance structure

in Features/Sport Insight

GRFU was formally incorporated in 1945. The structure in place at the time accommodated both military and civilian teams, who competed in a league, usually played across the border as there were no grass pitches in Gibraltar.

The GRFU continued being active even during the closed frontier days, switching to, and allegedly inventing, the ‘Tag’ variation, which was the only safe way of playing rugby on earthen pitches. The re-opening of the frontier saw the league return to grass pitches in Spain. 

It was only the reduction in the numbers of military personnel in the late 1990’s that resulted in a demise of the league, as there were only enough players to field two teams. Rugby remained active, playing visiting military units and travelling outside Gibraltar.

Fortunately, the introduction of 3g Astroturf in Gibraltar allowed the league to be resurrected as the Super IV’s (comprising Buccaneers, Scorpions, Sharks and Stormers) in 2010.  GRFU led this change, particularly as the four clubs were franchised by the Union. A practical effect of this was that members registered centrally with the Union and not the clubs. At the same time, GRFU commenced it’s (yet to be resolved) journey towards joining Rugby Europe, much as GFA (eventually) became members of UEFA.

By September 2019, GRFU were able to inaugurate the magnificent premises at Europa. In this time, though, the Union had grown to a size and at a pace that was overwhelming our organisational structures. Apart from the four senior clubs, our ladies, Vets and Mini & Youth sections were all growing. Additionally, we begun to play International matches, both at Home (initially at Victoria Stadium) and away, taking on Cyprus, Israel, Malta, Finland, Hungary, Montenegro, Denmark and Sweden, as well as tours to Malaysia/Singapore and UAE.  

All these developments and ambitions were becoming too much to be handled by a Committee of four elected Officers (Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer) and a host of volunteers working in 31 sub committees! Accordingly, during the summer of 2019, GRFU carried out an extensive consultation process involving all interested members. Splitting into four large groups, the members were challenged to identify where the Union was failing, where our strengths lay, where we could improve and how we should develop.

This massive and democratic process yielded a host of information and ideas for GRFU to digest and develop. We commissioned another volunteer with a strong background in implementing organisational change (Retired Assistant Commissioner (RGP) Richard Mifsud), to work through the suggestions and draft an organisational structure. The review revealed that whilst the Union would eventually outgrow its existing structure, the constitution was flexible enough to design the new structure without the need to amend it. In effect what has happened is that the working of the Union’s Executive Committee has now been distributed among three mutually supporting tiers. 

• Executive Board, 

• Operational Committee

• National Structure

These three bodies, taken as a collective, form the Executive Committee provided for by the GRFU Constitution. 

The Executive Board forms the Strategic Tier of the structure and provides the strategic direction for the Union. 

The Operational Committee includes the Executive Board members together with the Heads of the National Structure Business Areas and forms the Tactical Tier of the structure, managing the strategic priorities and ensuring they are met. 

The ‘National Structure’ is the Business Areas that capture the Union’s work both on and off the field and comprises Governance, Finance, Commercial, Operations and Logistics, Corporate Communications, Facilities, Player Welfare, Age Grade Rugby, IT, Development, Performance, Participation, Women’s Rugby, Discipline.

These changes were accepted by the committee, endorsed by the membership at our AGM in September 2021 and were immediately implemented. We are confident that these changes will allow us to continue growing the sport of Rugby in Gibraltar.

AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS

in Features/Sport Insight

SOUTHERN BIG BOYS BACK ON EURO TOUR

NOVEMBER’S here and with the accompanying chill come the Autumn Internationals when rugby union’s southern hemisphere heavyweights, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, world-ranked 1-2-3 respectively, invade the British Isles with all guns blazing to remind uppity European nations just where the powerhouse of the sport burns brightest – the fulcrum that will never be extinguished despite the odd momentary flicker or two, an opportunity to reaffirm that any spark of an ascendancy-shift northwards is just another illusion, a dream destined to perish like so many before.

Reigning world champions South Africa embark on an ambitious and demanding schedule, starting with a visit to the Principality Stadium in Cardiff to lock horns with current Six Nations champions Wales, followed by a trip to Edinburgh to take on resurgent Calcutta Cup holders Scotland, and then it’s a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final, with Twickenham the amphitheatre, to go head to head with an England side thirsting for revenge, an opportunity to right that shameful 32-12 final collapse in Japan.

Memories of that tame surrender are still raw to this correspondent, having had a lumpy bet on Eddie Jones’ boys pre-tournament at odds of 8/1 to go all the way, and having disposed of the All Blacks in the semis, in my mind I had already banked the winnings, but, alas, for whatever reason England failed to turn up for the final and my once neatly folded and indexed betting slips finished up shredded, torn and tear-stained in the bin. Ouch, that pain still lingers!

South Africa start their tour of the UK buoyed by the summer series win over the visiting British and Irish Lions, a somewhat fortuitous 2-1 victory for the Boks that owed much to Lions’ coach Warren Gatland’s insistence on going head-to-head against the host’s power game rather than employ the famed running style that has long been the Lions trademark and has served them so well down the decades. Gatland’s strategy was obvious from pre-tour with the dizzying decision to leave Johnny Sexton, the world’s most creative flyhalf, at home in Dublin and then, inexplicably, as brutal onfield battle raged, to exile Owen Farrell, England’s fiercely combative captain, to the replacement bench.

With tough games over 14 days, opening with Wales on 6th November, eyeballing Scotland at Murrayfield a week later and then the Twickenham showdown, certainly no one can accuse South Africa of shirking any challenge on this tour, and a clean sweep for the Springboks over three of the home powerhouses would be catastrophic for the reputation of the Six Nations championship, unquestionably the world’s most popular rugby tournament.

Australia arrive in the UK for successive weekend dates with the same three opponents and despite enduring a double drubbing from the All Blacks in the recent Rugby Championship they still finished runners up in that tournament, comfortably ahead of South Africa, in the process beating the Boks twice, the team that had shattered England’s World Cup final dreams and shot down the British and Irish Lions – food for thought for the home nations, an Aussie hat-trick would be unthinkable, whilst the thought of sending the ultra-confident Wallabies, who all appear to be imbued with the “Crocodile Dundee” mindset, limping back Down Under with their didgeridoo between their legs, is very enticing indeed.

Reigning Rugby Championship holders New Zealand commence the European part of their tour with a mouth-watering clash with current Six Nations champs Wales at The Principality, followed by a leisurely trip to Rome to inflict more ignominy on whipping boys Italy, whose continued participation in the Six Nations has recently come under scrutiny following a disastrous run of 30 straight defeats since the Azzurri’s last victory, over Scotland, six years ago. With South Africa waiting in the wings as a possible replacement and making less than subtle overtures to be admitted to Europe’s beloved tournament, it’s way past time to get the House of Rome in order.

The mighty All Blacks then head to Dublin’s fair city to face an Ireland side who have promised much but ultimately failed to deliver on the big occasions – a monster test for the Men in Green to prove that this time there’s substance to the positive vibes emerging from the Aviva and not just another pipedream. An exciting  date with  France in Paris concludes the Kiwi tour and a brilliant month-long rugby extravaganza ends.

Sadly, rugby has joined football, boxing, snooker, darts and motor racing in selling the sport’s crown jewel events to the highest bidder, on this occasion TV coverage has been bought by an obscure internet outfit called Amazon Prime, and only the Ireland games can be seen on free-to-air terrestrial television. More money in the coffers but less audience – a scandalous short-sighted decision by the men in suits who know the price of everything but the value of nothing. Amazon Prime subscription costs a monthly fee of £7.99 to add to the sky-high Sky Sports and BT bills. No thanks, it’s time to pop down the pub and watch. Cheers!

Gibraltar Rugby – The growth of women’s rugby

in Features/Sport Insight

With a few games of contact rugby under their belts, the first Gibraltar Women’s Rugby Select rugby team took to the pitch against visiting Spanish players on Sunday 20th June. Emotions were, understandably, running high. “At the start I was feeling really nervous,” said trainee psychologist Camille Lavagna, 23, “but as the match went I on I felt determined to take the win as we had all been working so hard together.” They got the win and a very closely fought game, 15-12, having to come from behind twice. There was even significant coverage of the game on GBC, a great advert for the game.

The very first attempts tentative steps at kicking-off women’s rugby on the Rock were made in 2008 following a successful schools programme. Then, around 2015, Teacher and rugby referee, Rob Azzopardi, resurrected the idea and, on an exceptionally wet and windy Tuesday night in March 2018 at Devil’s Tower Camp, Zoe Fidock, later to become GRFU Chairperson for Women’s Rugby, and Tom Tunbridge, the current GRFU Vice-President, organised an open training session. Tom’s bombardment of the email in-trays of anybody that had expressed an interest paid off; despite the conditions 24 players turned up. Unfortunately, the time just wasn’t quite right for the women’s game in Gibraltar and, with issues over access and commitments, player numbers dropped.

By the end of the summer of 2018 I joined as a new coach, and ran weekly training sessions at DTC focusing  on building on basic skills with the players that remained. Then came the move to Gibraltar Rugby’s current home in late 2019 at the newly built Europa Sports Park. Suddenly, rugby players had access to a purpose-built facility, something which they had needed for years. Numbers began to recover.

Then the COVID and lockdowns arrived in Gibraltar. Despite this setback player numbers were maintained and increased once lockdown conditions began to ease. In fact, the numbers were good enough that the first competitive game of COVID-compliant touch rugby was played between Rooke and Nelson and refereed by Rob in mid-November 2020 with Nelson running out as winners on a sunny Saturday. It is easy to underestimate the significance of a game of touch rugby but as finance director, GRFU CFO and mum Georgie Taylor says: “I never thought I would be playing rugby again, so this journey feels really special.”

Three more games, all refereed by Rob, who brought his coaching skills to the role, were played before the second lockdown hit. Online quizzes were used to keep team spirits up as well as Zoom fitness sessions twice per week, which I used to manage. During the second lockdown the GRFU was restructured and the women’s game in Gib was reorganised to mirror the men’s game with four clubs. For the purposes of the playing regular matches, these were amalgamated into two teams: Red and Black. Their first match was held on 17th April 2021. Encouragingly, this game featured debuts for a couple of new players.

As COVID restrictions were relaxed, rugby activity in Gibraltar increased quickly with the advent of the Corporate Touch Rugby Tournament in May and the announcement of the inaugural Gibraltar Rugby Sevens tournament scheduled for late June.

The touch rugby tournament required mixed teams and nearly all the players found themselves being invited to play. New to the game trust administrator Kelly Gibbins, 22, played for the winning team. “I learned a lot,” she said. “How to read the game and seize the spaces, invaluable lessons for my growth as a rugby player. Every week brought endless smiles.” That learning and enjoyment was a gift to women’s rugby as players got more game time and those introduced to the game decided to take it further.

The Gibraltar 7s tournament presented the opportunity to play a full 15-a-side rugby in front of a crowd. However, this was going to be a game against more experienced players so training had to be stepped up. The first club game involving contact was played in May with a winning debut for police constable Leila El Yettefti, 25: “Before the game I was [so] nervous, then I saw my teammates had my back, I relaxed and enjoyed the game. After the win it was such a euphoric moment.”

With a few games of contact rugby under their belts, the first Gibraltar Women’s Rugby Select rugby team took to the pitch against visiting Spanish players on Sunday 20th June. Emotions were, understandably, running high. “At the start I was feeling really nervous,” said trainee psychologist Camille Lavagna, 23, “but as the match went I on I felt determined to take the win as we had all been working so hard together.” They got the win and a very closely fought game, 15-12, having to come from behind twice. There was even significant coverage of the game on GBC, a great advert for the game.

As this article is being written, the players are preparing for a new season. They are always looking for new players. “I love the fact that, no matter your experience or skill set, there is a position for everyone,” says student Milly Head, 17, “you meet such a variety of people. Despite being the youngest, the team has always made me feel welcome.”

“The girls in the squad are such a fantastic group,” adds Georgie. “There is some really great talent for the future of the women’s game in Gibraltar.”

“It feels great to be part of a team that is growing and developing together,” says Camille. “Playing rugby has definitely made me more resilient [and] enhanced my confidence and fitness.”

It is my view that we need to keep growing the game in Gib, to achieve that critical mass. The best way to do that is with games; the ladies just want to play more matches. Our plan is to be playing every couple of weeks, either domestically or against outside teams, home and away. That way you build both character and experience and get a pool of players to select from for our first international match. That’s where we want to be.

ICC World Twenty20 – 2021

in Sport Insight

Sport continues to take centre stage as Planet Earth slowly struggles to break free from the deadly tentacles of the Covid-19 pandemic, and this month it’s Cricket’s turn to play a leading role in lighting the way on the rocky road back to normality with the start of the T20 World Cup in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Originally scheduled to take place in India, but postponed because of the plague and the emergence of the virulent “Indian variant”, the 7th ICC T20 World Cup has been switched to the Middle East, starting on 17th of this month, with the final due to be played on 14th November.

T20 cricket, by far and away the most exciting version of the sport,  came into being in 2003 and the inaugural T20 World Cup was played in South Africa in 2007 when India claimed the cup by beating bitter rivals Pakistan by just 5 runs in an exhilarating final in Johannesburg. Of the six T20 World Cup finals played so far, West Indies boast the most successful record with two victories, with one each for England, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Surprisingly, Australia and New Zealand still await a maiden World T20 cup final win – something the southern hemisphere heavyweights will be pumped to put right this time round. England have contested two finals, beating Australia in 2010, and losing to the West Indies in the last tournament, played in Eden Gardens Kolkata in 2016.

This year’s tournament sees the sport’s top eight qualified nations – England, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and, miraculously, Afghanistan, being joined by four qualifiers, two of which could be Scotland and Ireland, to form the Super 12, which is split into two groups of six. England face defending champions West Indies, Australia and South Africa in Group 1 which has already been labelled the Group of Death. Should Ireland qualify to join the group we could see a possible clash with England, an English side captained by Dubliner Eoin Morgan – not content with stealing football stars Jack Grealish  and Declan Rice from Ireland’s international youth teams, the “Auld Enemy” has gone and pinched their best cricketer as well!

Ranked T20 number one in the world, England are among the favourites to lift the trophy for the second time, the Red Rose having gained the sweetest of victories when bashing the Aussies in the final in Barbados eleven years ago. Shorn through injury of the services of the world’s fastest bowler Jofra Archer and top all-rounder Ben Stokes, who is taking indefinite leave to rekindle his mental wellbeing, their first opponents are defending champions West Indies, whose light has dimmed somewhat from the stellar days of Lara, Lloyd, Marshall and Richards, but on their day the Windies are capable of scalping any side. Faltering giants Australia and South Africa follow, along with two qualifiers yet to be determined, all in all a teak-tough group, and should England qualify for the semis, Morgan’s men should not fear whichever teams emerge from the other group. The entire world, not just the world of cricket, will hope that the courageous band of men representing Afghanistan prosper in the heat of battle in Oman, but will the Taliban be watching and dancing in the streets!

My first recollection of cricket was when accidentally wandering through an open gate after a liquid lunch in Tunbtidge Wells and finding myself among a sparse scattering of spectators at a county cricket match, where nobody appeared to be watching the on-field action and quite a few appeared to be having a nap. I noticed one elderly lady nearby who was busily knitting, while a Yorkshire terrier lay sleeping at her feet.  In the distance I could see the players, all immaculately attired in brilliant whites, top and tails, I could hear the odd shout carried on the breeze, and thought to myself, how nice, how posh, how totally different to the shouts of abuse I endured while playing footy on Hackney Marshes every Sunday morning, and then I fell asleep, coming to two hours later.

At that time i thought cricket should be sponsored by Ovaltine as a bedtime drink to cure insomnia, but with the advent of T20 all that changed forever. Now, every ball bowled, every run scored, every target set is vital, tension-filled and often breathtakingly exciting – no chance of a nap now as the result is often in doubt until the final ball is bowled or the winning run secured. We’re blessed to have four weeks of exhilarating action to come, every match covered on TV, pub-friendly start times – lunch times and evenings. Howzat! I can’t wait!

Current odds: 

India 13/5, England 7/2, Australia 6/1, West Indies 7/1, New Zealand 8/1, Pakistan 10/1, South Africa 12/1, Bangladesh 50/1, Sri Lanka 66/1, Afghanistan 80/1, Ireland 500/1, Scotland 1000/1, Netherlands 1000/1, Papua New Guinea 1500/1, Oman 1500/1, Namibia 2000/1.

TV Coverage: Sky Sports / Highlights BBC1

Radio Coverage: BBC Radio 5 Live


Selected Group Matches (all times CET)
17th October
Bangladesh v Scotland  – 15:00
18th October
Ireland v Netherlands – 11:00
19th October
Scotland v Papua New Guinea – 11:00
20th October
Sri Lanka v Ireland – 15:00
21st October
Oman v Scotland – 15:00
22nd October
Namibia v Ireland – 11:00
23rd October
England vs West Indies – 16:00
27th October
England vs Qualifier – 12:00
30th October
England vs Australia – 16:00
1st November
England vs Qualifier – 15:00
6th November
England vs South Africa – 15:00

Football Insight

in Sport Insight

Last season Lynx lead the way with streaming our matches to audiences worldwide. For the 2021/22 season, we have teamed up with FreeBySport TV to once again offer live coverage of all of our Gibraltar National League fixtures.

After gaining many new fans last season from around the globe, it was important that we still gave them a platform where they could watch us. With new players, comes new fans and new viewers from more countries. Having the ability to show games live, gives their families the chance to proudly watch them play, and gives sponsors more exposure than ever before. It’s a great chance to give football in Gibraltar even more exposure.

This season will include commentary from former member of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Steve Brown, who went into broadcasting and journalism 10 years ago.

“I have been following the progress of rock football for many years and during that time the game has improved dramatically. New players joining clubs from overseas and more importantly the emergence of local talent coming through the academies has been encouraging and refreshing to see. So to be asked to join FreeBySport TV for the 2021/22 season as their lead commentator was a privilege and an extremely easy decision for me to make. 

Over the past few seasons FreeBySport TV has primarily been a platform for promoting Mons Calpe SC with coverage of all of their games being shown online, but this coming season will be even better with the inclusion of Europa Point FC and Lynx FC, and also talk of possibly one or two more clubs joining forces before the start of the season which begins on October 15th. 

For a commentator and supporter of rock football it’s excellent news that those watching on the rock and around the globe will be able to follow the fortunes of their teams online and totally free of charge. There’s never been a better time to follow football on the rock in my opinion, especially with the recent success of Lincoln Red Imps and their progression into the Europa Conference League group stages. And of course the progress of the national game. 

A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to make sure we are ready for kick off. Meetings and emails are constantly being passed back and forth in order to make sure we’re all on the same page. It’s the start of something new. And for me personally it’s great that I’m able to use my skills for the good of football on the rock. Enjoy it. It’s free!”

A massive thanks to Steve for taking the time to give us a few words. 

It’s amazing that the streaming will be free for fans and so easily accessible for them. That is truly massive! We are really looking forward to being able to chat to even more fans on social media before, during and after the matches. Be sure to get involved!

Gibraltar’s Walking Footballers enjoy another successful International Super Masters Competition.

in Features/Sport Insight

Gibraltar’s walking footballers travelled to Denmark in August as the reigning International Super Masters 65+ Champions, after triumphantly winning the previous tournament in 2019 in Paris. 

The global Covid 19 pandemic meant that Gibraltar were unable to defend their title in 2020 as the annual tournament was postponed for a year given various lockdowns across many countries and the travel restrictions that have been in place. Actually, the postponement meant that Gibraltar’s Walking Footballers reigned as International Super Masters Champions in the over 65 age group for two years. 

Covid 19 has had some wide-ranging effects on many global tournaments and sporting events, many of which have been cancelled, shelved, and completely removed from international calendars. As soon as the Super Masters was rescheduled for 2021, Gibraltar’s Walking Footballers were determined to travel to Copenhagen safely, to defend their title. 

Yet for the majority of the Rock’s Walking Footballers, competing internationally is just a bonus and something to look forward to. Their twice weekly sessions using the facilities at the Bayside Sports Complex and the Victoria Stadium are much more important. For them, walking football provides a much-welcomed opportunity to exercise and take part in physical activity and do so in the sport they love and have loved for so many years. 

Furthermore, there is also a very important social side to Walking Football.Over a post session coffee tales and anecdotes from their younger days are frequently recounted and always with smiles and laughter across the faces of the footballers. 

As they left this August for the Danish capital though, defending their title was firmly on their mind, “Ready to go” one team member told the local press whilst previewing the tournament. They also had their eyes on the two other events in the over 65 category, the penalty shoot-out and the running event in which they would compete in for the first time. One thing was for certain, Gibraltar’s Walking Footballers had not lost any of their competitive edge!  

In the main event they were once again one of the standout teams in the tournament which was played in a 5 aside round robin format, somewhat similar to futsal, with matches lasting 15 minutes Despite a valiant effort Gibraltar were toultimately finish runners up to Wales. 

The running event, which was a first for our over 65’s saw them put in another valiant performance, finishing in 3rd place, but the best was yet to come. 

The third event in Copenhagen was the penalty shoot-out. With Eric Abudarham in goal, reigned supreme! The victory meant that they had finished in 3rd place or higher in allthree events they entered in Copenhagen, so overall hugely successful and proud week for Gibraltar’s walking footballers.  

Speaking after the tournament Gibraltar Walking Football Chairman, Eddie Guerrero, who was in Denmark said: 

“I am extremely proud of the performance of all my players and coaching staff in the three competitions that we participated in the Copenhagen Tournament. The hard training and preparation carried out prior to our departure for Copenhagen paid dividends and it demonstrated once again that despite our small catchment area we can compete with the best. We now look forward to the next international tournament to be held in Zurich in May 2022.”

 

WHAT IS WALKING FOOTBALL? 

Walking Football is a different version of the beautiful game.
Walking Football is a walking pace version of football for men and women.  It is a non-contact activity where any player who sprints, runs or jogs while the ball is in play concedes a free-kick to the other team.

HOW WALKING FOOTBALL IS PLAYED
• Running is not allowed. A participant always has to have one foot on the ground.
• Matches are played with modified formats (5v5/6v6) on smaller pitches with shortened game times
• It is a non-contact version of the game.
• The ball cannot be kicked above head height.
• There is no heading of the ball.
• The focus is on fun and making friends.

The full travelling party to Copenhagen consisted of: 

Players: Abudarham Eric, Baglietto Frank, Federico Eliott, Figueras Victor, GuerreroEddie(Player/Manager), Lugaro Hector, Martinez Diego, Moudden Mohamed, Pecino Jaime, Perez Jimmy, Sene Andy, Zammit Charles.

Accompanying Members: Ghio Luis, Fortunato Charles, Langston Albert.

Travelling officials: Gibraltar FA Delegate: Asquez Leslie, Physiotherapist: Mitchell David, Manager: Guerrero Eddie, Asst Manager: Britto Gerry, Coach: Stych Roy, Assistant Coach: Field George, Contingent Coordinator: Beltran Dennis, Match Delegate: Reyes Jon, Referee: Jones Dennis. 

Ryder Cup to the fore as sport lights up road to recovery

in Sport Insight

As the planet slowly recovers from the ravages of the terrifying Covid-19 pandemic, sport once again leads the way on the rocky road back to normality as, immediately after the successful and entertaining but spectatorless Tokyo Olympic Games, golf takes centre stage when the War of the World – United States vs Europe – tees off in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, with the home side thirsting to avenge the 17.5-10.5 mauling suffered in the Paris debacle of 2018.

The Ryder Cup, named after English entrepreneur and golf enthusiast Samuel Ryder who hailed from Preston, proved to be an insurmountable task for the home nations in the initial years as the Americans, powered by immortals Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino etc, routinely and relentlessly brushed the opposition aside, often by embarrassing margins. I’m old enough to recall those dark days and how jarring were the patronising words of consolation and pats on the head proffered to outclassed opponents by successive Yankee captains at post-match victory celebrations, but in 1979 all that was about to change.

Golf was becoming very popular in continental Europe with the emergence of Spanish superstars, swashbuckling Seve Ballesteros, gritty Antonio Garrido, ‘El Niño’ Sergio Garcia, Captain Fantastic José Maria Olazabal, plus cigar-chomping Miguel Ángel Jiménez and German prodigy Bernhard Langer. With Europeans regularly scaling the summit of golf’s order of merit, and with Uncle Sam at last tiring of the cat-torturing-the-mouse routine that the competition had become, combined with TV stations’ complaints about the one-sidedness of it all, the call went up… the Ryder Cup must be opened up to the rest of Europe.

And so it came to pass – from 1979 stars from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden strode to the aid of their beleaguered British and Irish colleagues and the effect was immediate, the Ryder Cup became a proper contest and the unthinkable happened – the Americans were being put to the sword, and for Uncle Sam, having grown fat gorging on the carcasses of inferior opponents, this was a hard pill to swallow. Of the 20 tournaments played since the change, Europe have won 11 to eight, with one tied.

Postponed for a year because of the plague, the 43rd Ryder Cup is scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin, with the action set to detonate on Friday 24th September and ending two days later on the Sunday. At the time of writing, barring any more nasty pandemic setbacks, the three-day extravaganza is set to be played in front of a full hostile house of fanatical and very noisy golf enthusiasts. Memories of the spanking the Yanks suffered last time in Paris are still raw in the States – the then president and golf nut Donald Trump was reported to be incandescent at the result, it didn’t sit well with the Ginger Don’s moronic MAGA chant of Make America Great Again – and Team USA are desperate to avenge what they consider to be that shameful collapse.

The Americans, led by non-playing captain Steve Stricker, are odds-on favourites with the bookies to wrest the Cup back, and with eight Yanks in the top ten of golf’s official world rankings it’s not difficult to see why Uncle Sam’s Boys are confident that America is on the road to redemption, with victory assured in what is sure to be an ultra intimidating Whistling Straits battleground. The team is made up of the top six in the points table who qualify by right, the remaining six places are ‘captain’s picks’ where Stricker has the option to include players based on current form or previous Cup experience, like class act Phil Mickelson, who boasts an astonishing 12 Cup appearances. I fervently hope that old ‘Lefty’ makes it 13.

Team Europe consists of the top nine in the order of merit, with non-playing captain Padraig Harrington having just three picks, an unenviable dilemma for the popular Irishman – who to pick, who to leave out? Just as with Mickelson for the USA, my earnest hope is that Ian Poulter be one of Harrington’s choices should he not qualify by right. The mercurial Englishman comes alive when donning Team Europe colours – not a hint of Brexit negativity here – a fantastic fanatical team player who has never lost a Cup singles match, won five with one tied is the proud record of Hitchin’s favourite son.

Who will emerge triumphant on Sunday, 26th September? My heart says Europe but my head whispers USA. Spaniard Jon Rahm, who tops the world rankings, is head and shoulders Team Europe’s finest, Rory McIlroy occasionally shows signs that he might be about to rediscover some of his past zest, Tommy Fleetwood is flying and Tyrell Hatton has been a revelation this term, all signs that Team Europe have realistic hopes of hitting the 14-point target that, as holders, would see the Ryder Cup retained. It’s going to be an exhilarating three days, with every stroke live on TV. Don’t miss it!

Current odds: Team USA 4/7, Team Europe 2/1, Tie 12/1

TV Schedule of The Ryder Cup Action (Tee-off times to be announced)

Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Golf

Also excellent coverage BBC Radio 5 Live

Friday 24th – Morning 4 Foursomes – Afternoon 4 Fourballs

Saturday 25th – Morning 4 Foursomes – Afternoon 4 Fourballs

Sunday 26th – 12 Singles

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