Gibraltar are set to take part in their first ever FIFA-recognised international when they take on Slovakia in Portugal on Tuesday evening. FourFourTwo recently caught up with the man who'll take his place between the sticks for world football's newest national team in the historic fixture...
So, Jordan Perez: who are you?
I’m Gibraltar’s first-choice goalkeeper, and I play for Lincoln Red Imps, Gibraltar’s club champions for the last 11 years. I’ve been with them since I was 17, except for a couple of years playing for Manchester United’s Gibraltar branch. I’m currently studying to become a firefighter, having worked as a prison officer for three years.
Have you had a chance to play football professionally?
Some years ago, I trained with Shamrock Rovers in Ireland. They gave me a great chance to play in a friendly – against Real Madrid! Part of the trial was that I’d play at least 20 minutes, in goal against Cristiano Ronaldo [on his Madrid debut]. But the night before, the manager told me I couldn’t play: the official reason was that Madrid didn’t want a trialist playing in the game, but I think it was because I’m from Gibraltar. My dad had been promised a ticket but then had to buy it himself, and all for nothing. I got on the next plane home.
Why have Spain been so opposed to Gibraltarian football?
Political reasons. But I don’t want to know anything about it. We feel 100 per cent British and do our talking on the pitch. Full stop.
How did you feel when Gibraltar were admitted by UEFA?
It’s the greatest thing to happen to me. Really. My dream is to play professional football and now I can play important matches. Gibraltar may not have professional players but we take it very seriously: we have three divisions, and we’re building a new stadium.
How does the national team play?
As Gibraltarians we play technical football like the Spanish but with a practical style, like the British. We’re very difficult to play against – pragmatic in defence but also good in attack. We beat San Marino 7-5 in the Euro Futsal tournament, and they’re much more experienced than us.