Sunday, October 06, 2013

How To Decide The Future Of Gibraltar

I quite like Danny Higginbotham. Not in a man love way or any other sort of love way. Just that he comes across well on radio and usually speaks good sense. Plus, because he was never a BIG name in English football, you can listen to him and believe that he was and is in touch with the real world and therefore that he approximates to being a real person and does not inhabit a world of make-believe alongside many of the strange species to nowadays be found in English football. There was always, of course, the possibility that he wasn't a real person in that he was The Secret Footballer, but he's flatly denied this and his name long ago disappeared from the polls which generally seem to favour Dave Kitson. 

Were he The Secret Footballer and were he to be utterly truthful and up-to-date, even behind this guise he would have to spill the beans about suddenly being elevated onto the international scene, an elevation I was unaware of until John Carlin, writing on the English page of "El País" brought this fact to my attention and also brought to my attention the little matter of the article in "The Telegraph".

Higginbotham, some of you may know, has agreed, if only in principle, to start a belated international career. Most 34-year-old central defenders who now find themselves plying their trade in the Conference wouldn't normally expect an international call-up, but Higginbotham may well become the hard man, the rock at the centre of the defence of Gibraltar's national side.

Glossing over the obvious discrepancy in the previous sentence (that of putting the words Gibraltar and national together), how is it that this one-time and very occasional Manchester United player now pundit now writer now not The Secret Footballer comes to get the opportunity to turn out for the Gib team? It is because of his grandmother, but it's his grandmother which is how Carlin and "The Telegraph" enter the equation. Carlin had picked up on a short piece in "The Telegraph" about Higginbotham's late emergence as an international footballer, and the reason he took particular delight in this short piece was that "The Telegraph" attributed Higginbotham's qualification to his Spanish grandmother.

You may detect that there is something slightly odd about this. If not, then I suspect you are not fully apprised of the facts regarding Gibraltar's relationship to Spain. Suffice it to say that "The Telegraph" got it wrong. Higginbotham's grandmother was Gibraltarian. Had she been Spanish, then Higginbotham might have found getting a place in Del Bosque's squad rather more difficult than getting into Gibraltar's.

We can all make mistakes of course, though "The Telegraph" did rather compound the error by referring to Gibraltar as an island. An easy enough mistake you might think, especially if you have no idea of geography, but when there have been a few issues down old Gibraltar way which have led to major delays at the border crossing, then there should be clues in the term "border crossing" and in photographic and video evidence of cars attempting to make this crossing without the aid of a boat which would lead you to appreciate that Gibraltar is not an island.

But putting aside perfectly understandable errors, such as equating being a Gibraltarian to being Spanish, and returning to Higginbotham and the national (sic) Gibraltar football team, what chances would this team ever have of any success? None would be the predictable answer, but if you believe this then you haven't consulted Gibraltar's entry in the "Uncyclopedia". Under the island's, sorry the rock's sport, this tells us that "Gibraltar plans to win the World Cup in 2088". This ambition is disputed because, among other things and according to "Uncyclopedia", "apes can't participate in international football competitions", which may explain why they have cast the net wider and come up with Not The Secret Footballer.

Nevertheless, this plan to become world champions has made me revisit an idea I had had, which was to let Spain play Gibraltar at football, and the winner could get to keep the rock. At present, the result might not bode too well for future British ownership of Gibraltar, but as plans are afoot, then some time in the 2080s, the meeting between Spain and Gibraltar (currently not possible, as UEFA won't let them meet) could be a real old ding-dong, and the result and so the future of Gibraltar could go down to penalties.

Higginbotham would alas not be available for this clash, but he would have a place in Gibraltar's history as the player who set in motion and so made real the possibility of truly securing Gibraltar for the Gibraltarians in perpetuity thanks to a deft penalty kick which sends the Spanish goalie the wrong way.

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