Chester defender Danny Higginbotham, who had stints at Manchester United, Sunderland and Stoke City, among other clubs, said on Wednesday that he will represent Gibraltar, UEFA’s newest member association. He made the announcement on Twitter nine days after Desmond Reoch took charge as the Gibraltar FA president.
The tiny nation off the coast of Spain became UEFA’s 54th member on May 24 after repeated efforts and despite Spain’s dissent. Gibraltar will begin its first official competition as a sanctioned soccer nation when Euro 2016 qualifying kicks off after the next World Cup.
(MORE: Minnows Gibraltar officially join UEFA… but why are Spain mad?)
Higginbotham’s qualification for Gibraltar seems somewhat convoluted, but the 34-year-old (pictured, right) jumped at his first opportunity for international competition:
I can confirm in principle that I have agreed to represent Gibraltar and am looking forward to the adventure.
— Danny Higginbotham (@Higginbotham05) September 18, 2013
The BBC reported that “Higginbotham’s mother is Spanish but was married in Gibraltar, while his grandmother also has connections there, and his uncle, Allen Bula, is head coach of the national side.” In any case, Higginbotham will join the nation with a population of 30,000 and a top-flight league of eight teams.
Because of their political differences, Gibraltar and Spain will be kept apart in any UEFA competition groups, just as Armenia is separated from Azerbaijan and Russia from Georgia.
Higginbotham has made nearly 400 appearances in a 16-year professional career in England, with a one-season loan to Royal Antwerp in Belgium. After spending most of it in the Premier League, he now plays for Chester in Conference Premier, having joined from League One’s Sheffield United in late August.