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Gibraltar celebrates clearance to play in European competition

Uefa decides to keep Spain and British colony apart in qualifying for 2016 tournament

Madrid -

The XXXVII Ordinary Uefa Congress has admitted Gibraltar as a full member of the continental grouping of national soccer associations. The decision was backed by a 2011 Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling against protests by the Spanish Football Federation and the Spanish government. Gibraltar had been granted provisional membership of Uefa by an executive committee vote held in Saint Petersburg last October.

“It is a great moment for us,” said Gareth Latin, president of the Gibraltar Football Association, one of the world’s oldest. “It means we can now embark on the next chapter for Gibraltarian football.”

Uefa president Michel Platini said that the continental governing body had taken the decision to preclude the pairing of Spain and Gibraltar in qualifying for the 2016 European Championships in France, which has been expanded to include 24 teams. Platini said the CAS decision “obliged” Uefa to accept Gibraltar’s decision despite Uefa statutes only permitting countries recognized by the United Nations. Gibraltar was made an exception as its petition predates the regulation. However, it will not be able to take part in World Cup qualifying or any other competitions under the remit of Fifa.

The first Gibraltarian sides to play in official Uefa competition will be the under-17 and unde-19 teams, in qualifying for the 2014 European Championships in those categories. The under-17s will play England, Armenia and Ireland. The under-19s will face Croatia, the Czech Republic and Cyprus.

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