Gibraltar rejected as UEFA member, Montenegro included

UEFA overwhelmingly rejected Gibraltar's application Friday to become a full member of European soccer's governing body.
Montenegro, which split from Serbia last year, instead became UEFA's 53rd nation.
In a highly charged political debate, Spain urged delegates to keep the tiny British colony at the southern edge of Spain out of UEFA.
"In Spain, this subject carries a huge social and political sensitivity," Spain's Angel Maria Vilar Llona, a UEFA vice president, said. "We don't want to bring political problems in soccer. We want politicians to solve political problems."
In a show of hands, UEFA members turned down Gibraltar's admission. Only the four federations of the United Kingdom voted for the inclusion.
Gibraltar has been a frequent source of tension between Britain and Spain, which claims sovereignty over the territory.
Neil Parish, the Conservative European Parliament member for Gibraltar, called the decision outrageous.
"Spain has acted like a jealous spoilt child over the application. It should settle its differences on the football pitch, not in the legal and political arena," he said.
After a court challenge, Gibraltar was granted provisional membership of UEFA last month but FIFA ruled Gibraltar's application for membership on the world governing body could not be granted.
In 1999 Spain succeeded in having UEFA change its rules so that members were U.N.-recognized states. Gibraltar's original application predates this change and the soccer association hopes to avoid exclusion.
Gibraltar's soccer team is more than 100 years old.
A rocky territory where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, Gibraltar has a population of around 29,000 and sends teams of competitors to the Commonwealth Games. But it does not have a recognized national Olympic committee.
Gibraltar was captured by Anglo-Dutch naval forces in 1704 and ceded to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. The strategically situated rock has had a British military base ever since.
"Since 1713 we have not found a political solution to this problem," Vilar Llona said.
Montenegro's inclusion was almost automatic and was welcomed with applause from around the congress center.

Updated : 2021-01-29 00:33 GMT+08:00