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FOOTBALL

Gibraltar’s World Cup qualifying campaign closed with what was probably – on paper – Gibraltar’s best chance to sneak some points onto the board.  Latvia had beaten Gibraltar 3-1 in Riga, but only two goals in the last five minutes had separated the two sides on the night – Gibraltar had posed a threat and will have have hoped that the home advantage on matchday 10 might give them the push they needed.

It could hardly have started better: Liam Walker provided a rare, early goal for Gibraltar within seven minutes of kick off, and the home side followed up with a few more promising attacks, but that would unfortunately be as good as it got.  A Latvia equaliser 25 minutes in saw a shift in dynamic that was further emphasised when De Barr had to leave the field after a collision.

He was replaced by Lee Casciaro in the 45th minute – a legend of local football and still a handy card for the manager to have up his sleeve – but he can’t be expected to have the same impact in his 40s as he has over the rest of his stellar career.

Two more goals for Latvia after the break saw the match end 1-3 again, as Gibraltar blew hot and cold for the remainder of the 90.

Time to begin preparations for next year’s Nations League where Gibraltar will face a stern test in Group C following promotion in the last campaign.


COMMONWEALTH GAMES

The athletics association will also be looking ahead to next summer, with the Commonwealth Games coming into view.  Less than eight months remain until the games get underway on July 28th in Birmingham, qualifiers already underway.

The end of an era has been marked in the local athletic scene with Chris Walker announcing his retirement as he moves into management of the Commonwealth team in order that he may the wealth of experience from a glittering career with the next generation of hopefuls.

Gibraltar will look to send a team of around 22 to Birmingham next year, with athletics, swimming, cycling, triathlon and rhythmic gymnastics all looking likely to be likely events, and the potential of weightlifting and mountain biking also possibilities. Unfortunately for the Rock, there will be no shooting at next year’s Commonwealth Games, so we will miss out on any potential medal haul which our prolific shooters tend to come home with. To add salt in the wound, a separate, Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championship scheduled to take place in India ahead of the rest of the games was cancelled in summer, due to ongoing complications and uncertainty caused by Covid.

However, preparations continue elsewhere and Government announcements regarding the facilities at Lathbury will be cause for cautiour optimism for the Athletics Association – with works stalled by the pandemic and the Victoria Stadium being signed off to the GFA, the GAAA have been without a permanent home for some time, and have been sharing the Victoria Stadium until a solution was presented.

Lathbury Stadium is due to be ready for use next month, with a handover scheduled for February which will see our local athletes reap all the benefits of a dedicated sports facility and set them on their way for a successful summer season in 2022.

We’ll hold our breath in the lead up to Christmas and hope this all blows over by the time we come out the other side, so we can get back to fully enjoying our sports (and the rest of our lives!) sooner rather than later.

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