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They can do it - Opinion and analysis on Gibraltar Women’s football by Stephen Ignacio

Opinion and analysis by Stephen Ignacio

There are few times I personally take the plunge but in the case of women’s football it might be a plunge worth taking. These ladies can play, will play and will thrill on the day if their nerves hold in what will be their first match on home soil.
Having watched women’s football progress in recent years there is only one thing that has been a constant denominator, progress in the face of adversity.
Without blurring the edges or painting a rosey picture women’s football when it first started was naive and with many of the views some had of its quality also transposed on the pitch. Missed kicks, loose control of the ball, wrong positioning and ignorance of the rules prevailed across the bulk of the league.
Yet, even then there was a crop of young players who showed promise and constant battling, hard grafting, a lot of backscenes efforts both on and off the field and the reality today is that whilst some of those things still exist within the league - it can’t be helped when you are bringing in new players who have never played football before - there is a crop of players, bigger than the national squad itself now, whose quality and fluidity has nothing to do with those days in the past.
These players not only can play but they enjoy playing and show it on the field.
Many of them still in their teens, today’s women’s national team doesn’t fail in controlling a ball and smile if they have touched the ball as sometimes was seen in the early days. These players will control the ball and will be annoyed if they fail to do so. They will move as a unit, position themselves, create flowing moves, put through through balls which will create openings to goal, curl balls into the top corners from free kicks, even curl balls into goal from corners if asked to do so. They will defend, hold their positions and track play.
Importantly, they will hassle for the ball, slide tackle if they have to and keep biting at your heels to regain possession. Even moreso, and something sometimes not seen now-a-days in men’s football, they enjoy their football and play it with the passion of someone who loves playing football. Yet few believe that these traits which we all expect from footballers on the field exist within women’s football, but if you have never watched a women’s match, then you will never know.
Liechtenstein will present themselves as a tough opposition to beat, with some physically tough players, good runners and more experience on the field at international level that Gibraltar. At least that is what Gibraltar became aware of when they played them in June.
However, win or lose, the players on the field representing Gibraltar will be a team which is building not just for tomorrow but for the next five even ten years. Many still in their mid-teens, others still young enough to give another five or six years of football, but none with a place secured in the national team because in the wings are a further handful of players who have yet to reach the selection age but whose ability is already seeing them knock on the door of the senior squad.
The players are now starting to see a light at the end of what has been a long tunnel with many challenges, the biggest of all overcoming the taboos of playing a sport many have felt, erroneously, was solely in the men’s domain.
These players have not sought to be treated differently because of their gender, nor expected different treatment because of their gender, they merely have expected to be treated equally as footballers, which is what they are. In the case of tomorrow the team walking out onto the pitch will be Gibraltar’s representatives in football.
Now we can say win or lose, but as someone who has watched these team progress and grow, losing is not something they will be satisfied with. This team has enough quality and determination, even though lacking in international experience (which could be a crucial factor) to provide every reason to believe that Gibraltar women’s national squad can provide the victory we have all been waiting for this 2021 at the Victoria Stadium and write another page in Gibraltar’s history book.
But it’s up to you whether you will put your support behind them.

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