IT’S NOT often that hockey becomes embroiled in matters of international politics, especially when even the not exactly friendly Indian and Pakistani governments have allowed regular matches between teams from the two countries, but now, with claim and counter claim, the situation between Gibraltar and Spain could be coming to a head.
For a number of years, Gibraltarian and Spanish teams have participated in friendly matches, both home and away, with the only problems being caused by the occasional misplaced hockey stick, but a decision by the Spanish Hockey Federation has angered Gibraltar and left local Spanish teams speechless.
Following a direction, supposedly from the Spanish government backed Consejo Federal de Deportes, the Spanish Hockey Federation instructed members not to take part in any further matches with Gibraltar with threats of sanctions if the instructions are ignored.
It was also suggested that the European Hockey Federation was involved in initiating this ban, which it denies categorically whilst going so far as to say that it is in favour of such matches taking place.
The Gibraltar government has made it clear publicly that it objects to what it describes as an “inappropriate mixing of politics and sport” as well as “unacceptable discrimination.”
In the meantime and perhaps as a subliminal snub to Spain, the International Hockey Federation has named Gibraltarian hockey umpire, Nathan Stagno, as umpire of the year after awarding him the ‘Golden Whistle’ for umpiring 100 international matches including a number at the Olympic Games.
As other sporting bodies appear ready to back Gibraltar in the event of other potential sporting bans, this little piece of un-neighbourly behaviour appears to have backfired on the Spanish authorities.