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A busy week of international football has taken its toll across European Football with many Nations involved in a triple header of World Cup Qualifiers. Travel restrictions in this COVID era have meant that many players have returned to their clubs later than usual with the lack of flights restricting movement across the continent.

For one set of Gibraltar players the March 2021 international window will never be forgotten. They were to face three tough matches, in what some were describing as the European Qualifiers ‘Group of Death’, on the back of very little domestic action, given the Gibraltar Leagues suspension in January due to COVID restrictions. None the less Julio Ribas’ men – his Gibraltarian Warriors as he affectionately refers to them – would shirk no challenge. And in this case it was to be a monumental one.

First up, Norway at home, with all of the razzmatazz that currently surrounds their team centred around their young superstar Erling Haaland and their newly appointed young captain Martin Odegaard.

Immediately after the Norway fixture was a tough trip to Montenegro in the tight and charismatic Podgorica Stadium. And if that was not enough the final game of the week was to see the visit of none other than Holland to the Victoria Stadium!

Step up Gibraltar’s goalkeepers. Three incredibly determined individuals at different stages of their footballing careers, Dayle Coleing, Bradley Banda and Kyle Goldwin, under the expert tutorage of their quiet and unassuming mentor, Gibraltar’s Goalkeeper Coach and integral member of Julio Ribas’ backroom staff - Christian Wink.

 

 

 

 

Dayle Coleing began as the man in possession. The chosen one, in the form of his life in Northern Ireland for Glentoran, tasked with keeping out Europe’s hottest young property, the afore mentioned Erling Haaland.

The build-up to Gibraltar v Norway had been all about how many the young Norwegian powerhouse would score at the Victoria Stadium. Media Outlets all over the world were glued to their screens to see what Dortmund’s centre forward against a so called ‘lesser nation’.

What they had not taken into account was Coleing. Gibraltar’s ‘keeper, ironically wearing number 23 on his back, just like Haaland,  produced save after save in the first half. Norway went in 1-0 up a the break yet Haaland had been kept at bay by Coleing in the Gibraltar net. Haaland was eventually substituted in the 62nd minute with the score at 3-0, yet the Norwegian superstar had not managed to find the back of Coleing’s net.

 

 

Post-match, arguably Norway’s most active Media Representative Jan Aage Fjortoft tweeted:

 

 

High praise from the former Premier League striker.

On to Montenegro next and it was Kyle Goldwin who was to take over in Gibraltar’s goal as Coleing was nursing a slight leg injury.

Once again, from the word go, Goldwin’s sheer pride and passion to play for his country was rubbing off on the Gibraltar team who had 10 changes to the side that faced Norway.

Simply put, the players lack of game time would not see them through 3 games in 6 days and Julio Ribas was doing all he could to protect his 'Warriors’ welfare and physical condition. Goldwin’s appearance in Montenegro made him become Gibraltar’s most capped Goalkeeper since UEFA admission in 2013.

 

Back home and the Netherlands game, the third of the week saw the return of spectators to the Victoria Stadium. Yet before kick-off FIFA has picked up on Coleing’s performance against Norway and posted his string of saves on their official World Cup Social Media Accounts with Jan Aage Fjortoft’s claim of him being in the world’s top three keepers! Gibraltar (and its Goalkeepers) was trending and going viral!

And Coleing, back in goal for Gibraltar, did not disappoint. Yet again the big ‘keeper made save after save, with the Dutch hugely frustrated to go in 1-0 up at half time.

 

 

Coleing’s heroics continued into the second half, and when he unfortunately had to come off injured, yet again with a leg injury, Goldwin took over exactly where he left off.

As the final whistle blew, despite the result, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC MP, was amongst the first to praise Gibraltar’s Goalkeeping heroes on his social media channels. 

Time after time this trio of keepers, guided by their mentor Christian Wink, put their body on the line as Gibraltar’s last line of defence and as a team they work harder than most with the fruits of their labour there for all to see.

 

 

Bradley Banda may not have had his chance yet, but his time will come. And the youngster, who has established himself domestically with Lynx FC, has tremendous experience under his belt at U21 level where he kept a clean sheet in Gibraltar’s first ever victory in that age group coming against North Macedonia.  

With a packed international schedule coming up, one thing is certain – Gibraltar’s keepers are here to stay!