GIBRALTAR is celebrating a thumping victory after Spain was forced to overturn a ban on the Rock’s hockey clubs.
It comes after the Olive Press confronted the Spanish government over why Spanish teams had apparently been told to play no friendly games with any Gibraltar teams.
The retreat by the Spanish government’s Consejo Superior De Deportes (CSD) followed further pressure from the Gibraltarian authorities.
The Gibraltar Hockey Association (GHA) was informed of the u-turn late on Friday night by the Royal Federation of Spanish Hockey (RFEH).
“It’s fantastic news,” GHA president Carl Rammage told the Olive Press.
“Everyone is very happy and looking forward to playing again. I have spoken to representatives from Spanish clubs over the weekend and we are all looking forward to getting on with it.
“I am surprised at how quickly this has been resolved.”
The European Hockey Federation (EHF) was also happy that the issue was dealt with so swiftly.
Its director general Angus Kirkland told the Olive Press: “The EHF is very pleased that the Spanish Hockey Federation has resolved the issue.”
The unexpected decision came after outraged Rock officials, including the government, slammed the Spanish ban.
A high-profile game between Gibraltar’s Grammarians Hockey Club and Spain’s Club Hockey San Fernando in October is believed to have sparked the dispute.
Following the match, Spanish clubs were told to sever ties with their Gibraltarian counterparts, a decision the RFEH claimed was approved by the EHF, which is vehemently denied.
It led to an appalling situation where no Spanish clubs would play in tournaments or games, in which Gibraltar was in any way involved.
In December, the GHA was sent an email that Andalucian clubs had received from the RFEH banning ‘any tournament or friendly game in Gibraltar, in Spain, or anywhere a team from Gibraltar participates.’
The ban included friendlies as well as official competitions and included all clubs, players and referees.
“It is sad and I think it is very unfortunate that politics is mixed with sport,” Rammage continued.
“We play regularly. A lot of Gibraltarian kids compete in Spain and they bring their kids here.”
When the Olive Press contacted the RFEH last Thursday to ask why this ban had been put in place, a spokesman said: “The reason is very simple: Gibraltar is not a state recognised by the United Nations or the International Olympic Committee.
“The rule applies to all federated sports, not only hockey.”
But following a meeting between RFEH and the Spanish government representatives on Friday, the decision to ban friendlies was overturned.
Official games – in European competitions, for example – are still prohibited however.
RFEH Secretary General Jose Antonio Gil told the Olive Press: “We want to keep good relationships between Gibraltar and the Spanish clubs, especially the clubs in Andalucia.”