EXCLUSIVE By James Bryce
FOOTBALL chiefs in Gibraltar have lodged a formal complaint with European governing body UEFA over the scandalous treatment of an Under-11 team during a tournament in Spain.
The step taken by the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) follows claims by the opposition party that it is ‘laughable’ that the Spanish Government has not accepted responsibility.
The Foreign Office had earlier been forced to step into the row which saw the Under-11 Lincoln football team abused and heckled during a tournament in Benidorm.
The incident saw the youth team’s flag seized and them being ushered away from the stage during the opening ceremony.
Steven Head, 44, coach of Lincoln Football Club, based on the Rock, told the Olive Press: “The children felt terrible about it, they were only there to play football, it was very unfair.
“We tried to tell them to turn the disappointment to their advantage and prove to the people involved that they were wrong, but it was very hard,” he continued.
Head, who had been in charge of taking the team on the eight-hour road trip to Benidorm from Gibraltar, added: “There’s no place for that kind of politics at a children’s tournament.”
Added Head: “They were happy to take our money and entrance fee and so to then treat us the way they did was a big disgrace.
“We were all very very disappointed.”
The opposition leader in Gibraltar, Steven Linares described the incident as ‘scandalous’ and demanded an apology.
He said: “The treatment of our young sportsmen is absolutely appalling and there can be no excuse for the pertinent authorities in Spain to have done this to schoolchildren.”
A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “Obviously we are deeply concerned by the actions of some of the individuals towards children shown in the video footage,” read a statement.
“Gibraltarian teams who are guests in another country should be treated with the same respect shown to other teams, and the Gibraltar flag should be treated with equal respect.”