From pitch two to the Euros - the battle-lines Gibraltar women’s football has set its sights on
Women’s football in Gibraltar came to age this Friday evening as they notched their first ever full international victory against Liechtenstein.
The tears of joy that rung out on the field as the final whistle blew were a product of not just a celebration of winning a match but that of many years of battling behind the scenes for the women’s game to be recognised.
Gibraltar women’s team have been on a long journey going back to 2014 when the first national squad under UEFA membership was formed to take part in a UEFA Development tournament on home soil. It was a tournament where players had to go from playing 9-a-side football to being guided on how to adapt to eleven-a-side football at a time when even youth teams were already playing on the main pitches of the Victoria Stadium.
Relegated to play 9-a-side football on pitch two women’s football had to battle hard to prove their worth and obtain minor recognition.
From pitch two they were taken to play on the main pitch at the Victoria Stadium but still as a 9-a-side development league and only recently having had the chance to play eleven-a-side matches, but not before many young, talented players dropped through the net and ventured into other sports.
Those who continued to follow their passion for the game have since continued their battle for recognition to be given at least a semblance of the recognition the men’s (boys even) game has been afforded.
From pushing for greater exposure of the sport, to recognition of the quality that exists among talented young players, and the older ones not yet given a chance to shine competitively, to pushing to see greater development at both grassroots and senior level the women’s game has started to see some light at the end of the tunnel, thanks in part to the efforts of the backscenes personnel working to develop the sport.
From Technical Director Desi Curry’s firm believe from the first day that the women’s game had a potential to succeed from his arrival, to the efforts of recently additions to the backscenes team such as Laura McGuigan the improvements and development have started to be seen.
The efforts of people such as Adrian Parral, Janssen Olivero, Kirsty Neale, Gayle Langtry, Jamie Bosio and Zamara Espinosa amongst many others have been crucial for the continued progress of the sport .
Additional exposure, the introduction of futsal, national squads, and now the inclusion of the under 19s into the U19’s European Championships have been battles which have been won but pale in comparison to the battles which players still seek to win.
With a handful of players now playing abroad in both the U.K. and Spain, including Josie Cummings playing for Rotherham, Charylann Pizzarello playing for Malaga, Kyrelle, Naomi and Keisha playing for Esteponense, Tiffany playing in Liverpool and Shania not only playing in Loughborough but also selected among the last players competing for a final place in BT Sport’s Ultimate Goal series, it is the passion and determination of players which is guiding the pathway towards reaching their objective.
On Monday the Gibraltar women’s national squad will walk out onto the pitch once again against Lichtenstien, knowing that their opponents will make it doubly difficult for them to repeat Friday’s feat. The prospects of not winning will now be more evident, however, a seven year battle from playing on pitch two to their final objective will provide the necessary momentum which will ensure that Gibraltar fans, those who will venture to watch them and recognise them as their national team too, get more than their worth in entertainment and passion on the field.
The final objective after all is not winning a match but being recognised and getting the opportunity to compete at senior level. A chance to play in the Euros, a chance to play European football and a chance to dream of one day playing professionally, importantly a right to be recognised as footballers.
It will not be about posters on walls, scoreboards, VIPs on stands, media exposure, not even monies, but about prospects for careers in football for those whose passions pushes them to want to go further than being considered development players.
Importantly a chance to build the foundations to dream of footballing glory where players passions are nurtured, developed and have a pathway to build upon rather than having to barge at battle walls where players fall to the wayside and the game is forced to rebuild from grassroots instead of build into the future.
With a team whose age means that they could potentially play together as a national side for the next decade, the building blocks already exist the players just want the foundations to from which to dream from.
A look back in images at women’s football during the past six years