An historic occasion at the Victoria Stadium saw England end up with a comfortable victory over their hosts in their first ever Walking Football International.
England had arrived on Thursday and played a warm up match on Friday 8th February against San Pedro – one of the Ex-Pats teams on the Costa. This was an entertaining match and proved to be a good challenge for the England Over 60s as they had some players under 50 and most under 60. The game was played n 4 x 15 minutes quarters, very much as a training match, giving England the opportunity to experiment. The final score was 10-4 to England.
The main event was on Saturday 9th February at 11am. Gibraltar hosted England for their first ever international in what was England’s third. Following the formalities of the National Anthems and introductions the game got under way in bright sunshine, temperatures around 20 degrees in the shadow of The Rock and in front of a crowd of over 200.
Two referees officiated the game – one in either half – and they were very strict on running and physical contact, as of course they should be. Gibraltar started strongly and England had difficulty getting the ball in the first 5 minutes as they passed it around sharply and with great intent. The first shot on target came from inside the Gibraltar half, with a fierce shot which had to be well saved by John Sykes at full stretch. England started to press but a lack of composure early on saw a few shots rushed and off target. England were starting to exert real pressure on their hosts, with Spencer Pratten working hard to nullify the effect of the Gibraltarian danger man in midfield. The opening goal was scored by Alan Davies, following a free kick given for a foul with a smartly taken shot which went in at the near post. He quickly scored his second, intercepting a clearance and firing home an unstoppable shot, in off the post, which was met with gasps of approval from the ball boys. Peter Stacey scored the third almost immediately as he reacted quickly to a back pass and toe poked home from just outside the area. England made several changes and Graham Collier scored the 4th with Spencer Pratten completing the first half scoring with a tidy finish.
Gibraltar were clearly tiring and at the start of the 2nd half England were completely dominant, keeping the ball for long periods of time and moving the opposition around. Alan Davies completed his hat-trick with a smart finish and then Graham Collier calmly slotted home from close range. Tony Jones scored on his debut with a good shot from a tight angle, but the goal of the game was Alan Davies’ 4th with a fantastic curling long range shot from the right wing. James Trant scored his first international goal before Vic Vaines popped up on the left wing to complete the scoring. John Hammonds, also making his debut in goal made one save in the second half and was pleased to keep a clean sheet.
The Gibraltar team clearly tired in the second half, but showed great spirit and they never gave up. Coach Roy Stych admitted that they had learned a lot from the experience and congratulated a very strong England performance. The game attracted great coverage from Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation who hosted a pre-match chat show called Sports Locker, filmed the match and post-match interviews and presentations. The whole experience was aimed at raising the profile of the game in Gibraltar and further afield and the coverage and publicity surrounding the match should help to achieve this aim.
We would like to thank The GFA, Roy and his team and anyone else that helped to make this a fantastic and memorable occasion – for their hospitality and friendship shown to the England party throughout the visit.