Minnows Gibraltar officially join UEFA… but why are Spain mad?


For anyone who’s never been to Gibraltar, and that’s most people by the way, it is a small island (rock) hanging off Spain’s south coast that has been controlled by British rule since 1713.

Gibraltar’s population is just under 30,000 at the last time of counting.

But the tiny nation is causing quite a fuss on the world soccer scene, as UEFA today confirmed Gibraltar would become it’s 54th member.

Everyone seems pretty happy that their 16 year wait to be accepted into UEFA has arrived.

Well, not everyone.

The World and European Champions are cheesed off. They’re not impressed. Not one iota.

So why should the Spanish nation worry about a small island off their coast being able to qualify for European Championships and World Cups?

It’s not a question of soccer.

Let’s put it frankly, even though this is a landmark day for the Gibraltar Football Association, it will be a very long time before they can even dream of competing on the biggest stage of world soccer. But who knows.

Regardless, Spain aren’t annoyed at their admittance into UEFA because of Gibraltar’s players and their soccer ability. Because that would just be ludicrous.

This particular British Overseas Territory is under intense political pressure, as Spain continues to claim sovereignty over the territory despite it being ruled by Britain since 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.

In the past Spain have threatened to boycott both club and international competitions if Gibraltar were admitted into UEFA.

So now where do they stand? They are still opposed to Gibraltar joining UEFA, but now this has happened, what can they do? Not much. In the past only England, Wales and Scotland had supported Gibraltar’s hopes of becoming a full member of UEFA. But today’s vote in London received overwhelming support.

Michel Platini confirmed earlier this morning that Spain and Gibraltar will be kept apart in Euro 2016 qualifying, as they didn’t want to further heighten the tension. “Gibraltar will not play qualifying matches with Spain – we also have this situation with Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Platini said.

While recently the New York Times spoke with Gibraltar’s head coach Allen Bula, who was bullish about Spain’s stance towards Gibraltar.

Over there [pointing to the border between Gibraltar and Spain about a third of a mile away] we have the world and European champions. I would play them any day, any time, anywhere, anyhow. The Spanish have stopped us from joining UEFA for political reasons and haven’t let us progress. We have proved Spain wrong.

But with Spanish historians stating that “The Battle of Gibraltar” shouldn’t be forgotten and citing younger Spanish citizens are know realizing Gibraltar as a “foreign nation on home soil,” rumblings of discontent will continue.

However, on the soccer field, Gibraltar are making a name for themselves. They defeated the Faroe Islands 3-0 and San Marino 7-5 in recent exhibition games, to show they are at least equal to, if not better than, other UEFA minnows.

We haven’t heard the last of this. But at long last, Gibraltar has a national team.

There will be a huge party on that famous rock in the Mediterranean tonight.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.

MLS All-Stars to face Juventus in 2018

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For the first time, Juventus will be taking on Major League Soccer’s best in the MLS All-Star Game.

MLS announced on Thursday that the six-time defending Italian champions will take on the MLS All-Stars in Atlanta United’s Mercedez-Benz Stadium on August 1, 2018. Juventus will be the second Italian club to play in the MLS All-Star Game, following AS Roma’s appearance in 2013.

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Since MLS adapted its all-stars vs. foreign club format in 2002 (with a brief return to the old East vs. West format in 2004), MLS has gone 9-6. Last year the MLS All-Stars lost 4-2 on penalty kicks to Real Madrid in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Klinsmann: “I’m sure I’ll come back” to coaching

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Jurgen Klinsmann hinted that he could return to full-time coaching after the 2018 World Cup.

Klinsmann appears to be enjoying life as a full-time soccer dad after his dismissal from U.S. Soccer in November 2016, having taken home a portion of a $6.2 million buyout from U.S. Soccer for he and his staff. Speaking to Socrates Magazine in Germany, Klinsmann gave his thoughts on the Bundesliga, the German National Team, and whether he’d be back in the hot seat one day.

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“I’m sure I’ll come back,” Klinsmann said. “Right now I’m having a nice break, I enjoy it. I do not know when I’ll take on a coaching job again. I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Russia and then I’ll be back in action.”

Klinsmann has been linked with a number of jobs over the past few years, even before he was fired as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, including with Everton, Sunderland, and Club Tijuana in Liga MX. But instead, Klinsmann has remained in the stands, cheering on his son Jonathan at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup along with the rest of the U.S. parents in their section.

Following the disastrous start of World Cup qualifying and the fact that Klinsmann never took the U.S. to the level he promised, it is hard to see where he will go next, unless it’s a lower level, with lower expectations. Based on his work with the USMNT and Bayern Munich, he has shown that he struggles tactically and is mainly a man-motivator, which is just one part of the coaching package.

The 53-year-old former German coach and player also had a bit of a warning to the Bundesliga, after a particularly tough season in Europe. Three Bundesliga teams (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig) made the UEFA Champions League, but both Dortmund and Leipzig finished third in their groups, dropping down to the Europa League. FC Koln, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all failed to advance to the knockout stages in the Europa League as well.

“The recent development at the European level is not a good sign, it is important that everyone is aware that success is lacking,” Klinsmann said. “Recently, you have lost too much ground.

“It’s a very critical moment. There is a certain amount of satisfaction after winning the World Cup in Brazil and the Bundesliga clubs having done very well in the Champions League.”