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Jersey Football Association host International tournament this coming weekend

Gibraltar, the current Island Games champions and Madeira will go to Jersey and play two games each in a round robin format. The first match on Friday evening 8 November will be played between Madeira and Gibraltar KO likely 6pm (tbc) followed by Jersey vs Gibraltar on Saturday 9th November at 3pm and Jersey vs Madeira on Sunday at 3pm, all matches taking place at Springfield Stadium. Both visiting FA’s will fly in on Thursday evening 7th November with Gibraltar leaving on Monday 11th and Madeira leaving on Tuesday 12th November.

This initiative has been in the pipeline for almost 2 years and emanated initially from a visit by Jersey FA President, Ricky Weir to meet Gibraltar FA President Joey Nunez in October 2006. Further dialogue was built at last year’s Island Games in Rhodes where Jersey were drawn in the same group as Gibraltar and were only 6 minutes from knocking them out when a stunning free kick from Gibraltar levelled the match. Gibraltar eventually qualified as winners by virtue of having scored more goals than Jersey and went on to win the tournament.

Earlier this year Jersey FA President, Ricky Weir also arranged to meet with Madeira F.A. President Mr Rui Marote and officials during a visit to Madeira to invite them to participate and in the past 6-7 months continued correspondence and a further meeting in mid July confirmed their commitment. Madeira of course have strong and historic links with the island and their visit this year will coincide not only with their 500th anniversary celebrations but also the 10th anniversary of the twinning of Funchal and St Helier.

As Jersey continue to pursue a meaningful and competitive games fixture calendar this tournament is seen as a stepping stone along that pathway and it is hoped can draw the attention of football’s governing bodies the FA, UEFA and FIFA in some shape or form. During a meeting between Jersey FA working party chairman Steve Meilklejohn and the then FA Chairman Mr Geoff Thompson, who currently remains as a FIFA and UEFA vice President it was suggested that Jersey take the initiative to create a ‘small nation’ tournament.

Tremendous thanks must go to our main sponsor Michael Wilde through the Wilde Family Office Limited, without who’s support this tournament would simply not be happening. Furthermore I would like to thanks and acknowledge the important part played by Elizabeth at Estrela Travel for her assistance and persistence in finalizing the Madeira flights and to a similar degree my Vice President Iain MacKenzie for his part in securing the Gibraltar flights as well as the Ambassadeur and Mayfair Hotels for their beneficial accommodation rates.

Jersey FA President, Ricky Weir said “This is an exciting opportunity and fantastic platform for us to promote ourselves in the international arena against two other proud and passionate small football territories. Gibraltar of course similar to Jersey seek international recognition and already have gained a high profile in their ongoing dispute with UEFA. As current Island Games champions they will also give Jersey the chance to demonstrate how misleading our final position was at last year’s Island Games. Madeira of course comprises a huge section of Jersey Island life and I am sure the large and vociferous local Madeiran residents will turn out in force to support the first ever visit by a Madeiran national side to the island. I hope we will also get great support for our own Jersey national side. On the back of the up and coming international against an England amateur XI we see this tournament as an important milestone as part of the bigger picture in raising our profile and gaining wider international recognition for small nation territories such as ourselves, Gibraltar and Madeira and who knows to where it could lead. We do however need to demonstrate not only on the field, but also off the field through everyone involved in local football, plus you the media and our politicians, what a passion and determination exists on the island to develop our game towards further international competition.”

Senator Mike Vibert Minister for Education Sport and Culture added: “I congratulate the Jersey FA on arranging this small nations tournament and very much look forward to seeing how Jersey gets on, in what should be, very interesting fixtures. There has been much debate about finding an appropriate games programme for our 'national' football team and this is yet another good example of how Jersey FA officials have worked very hard to provide these opportunities. I hope that the whole weekend is very successful and that this is the first of such tournaments between small nations across Europe which may lead to more formal competitions with the support of FIFA and UEFA.”

Gibrlatar FA President, Joey Nunez comments “The failure of UEFA to develop, support and assist football in all corners of Europe means that tournaments such as those organised by the Jersey FA are the only means for long established independent amateur associations such as that of Jersey, Guernsey, Greenland and Gibraltar to be able to compete at national level and give their members the stimulus required to progress and develop. The importance which such tournaments have for the development of the game in the particular jurisdiction cannot be over emphasised and the Gibraltar FA whole heartedly supports and encourages the efforts of the Jersey FA through the hosting of such tournament to bring to the notice of the powers that be that amateur and grassroots football in such places as Jersey and Gibraltar should not be forgotten and indeed incorporated within the European governing bodies fold.”

Jersey Island Team Manager, Dave Kennedy said of the tournament “At present, our only competitive fixtures are the Muratti and the Island Games so the tournament is a perfect opportunity for our players to compete against attractive opposition who are pitched at our level. We were five minutes away from beating Gibraltar in Rhodes last summer so we will certainly look forward to meeting them again whereas our game against Madeira should attract a healthy crowd'. 'All our lads are proud to represent Jersey so to have the opportunity to win a tournament on home soil is excellent”

Unfortunately the Gibraltar squad will be severely weakened as many players have work commitments. Let's just hope Madeira don't field their famous footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

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