Football in Gibraltar has flourished for over 100 years, and the Gibraltar Football Association – admitted to UEFA in May 2013 – has ambitious plans for the future
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The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) was formed as the Gibraltar Civilian Football Association in 1895, and is one of the oldest national associations in the world.
Football is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most popular sport in Gibraltar. The game was first introduced to the country by British military personnel serving there in the 19th century. Although it is not known exactly when the first civilian football clubs were formed, there is evidence that at least one club – Prince of Wales FC – was already in existence in 1892. Another club, Gibraltar FC, was founded in November 1893.
Between the creation of the association in 1895 and 1907, the only known official football competition in Gibraltar was the Merchants Cup. The cup was donated each year by the merchant community of Gibraltar. The first ever Merchants Cup final was between Gibraltar FC and Jubilee FC – a game witnessed by 1,500 spectators.
A league competition was finally set up in October 1907. The first league competition featured eight clubs, with Prince of Wales winding up as first champions. A second division was added to the league competition in 1909 as more and more clubs were created under the auspices of the GFA. As early as 1910, the GFA was already organising separate league and cup competitions for adult and youth clubs.
The period between 1949 and 1955 is regarded by many as the golden era of football in Gibraltar. It was during this time that several famous clubs, including Real Madrid CF, visited to play against the Gibraltarian national team.
Although opportunities for exposure to international matches became fewer from the 1960s, the Gibraltarian national team was successful in winning the football tournament at the XII Island Games in Rhodes, Greece in 2007 – a competition featuring island nations and territories from around the world.
The GFA became provisional members of UEFA in October 2012, with full membership being ratified by the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in 2013.
The Gibraltarian national futsal team participated in the UEFA Futsal EURO qualifiers for the first time in 2013. The team was drawn in Group A alongside San Marino, Montenegro and hosts France. The qualification tournament also saw Gibraltar's first ever win in official UEFA competition – an exciting 7-5 victory over San Marino. Gibraltar's U19 and U17 national teams participated in their respective qualification tournaments in October 2013, and the senior national team featured for the first time in the qualification draw for UEFA EURO 2016 in February 2014.
Gibraltar was admitted to FIFA at the world body's congress in May 2016. and was then included in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time in that same year, featuring in Group H alongside Belgium, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia and Cyprus. In addition, Gibraltar's U21 team is making its debut at this level in the 2017-19 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying competition.
These are exciting times for Gibraltarian football. Not only will the GFA shortly embark on a flagship project developing a new national stadium, but the association is also already involved in carrying on the excellent work already undertaken in the area of grassroots, and is fully committed to developing the women's game. The GFA is enthusiastic about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.