GIBRALTAR, Gibraltar - The captain of Gibraltars national soccer team laughs as he contemplates the task facing his team of amateurs against Germany. Luis Tiant Jersey .To put things in perspective, we have gone from Sunday league football to playing the world champions in 18 months, Roy Chipolina said, shaking his head in bewilderment. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.Win, lose or draw — and some locals here will be happy if Germany is kept to single figures in Fridays European Championship qualifier in Nuremberg — its a victory for Gibraltar just to be sharing a field with a team that beat Brazil 7-1 en route to winning the World Cup four months ago.After a 16-year fight, the tiny British colony — a rocky outcropping on the southern tip of Spain inhabited by about 30,000 people — became a fully recognized international team when it was accepted as the 54th and smallest member of UEFA in 2013. The move had previously been resisted by the Spanish, who dispute the sovereignty of the territory.The acceptance sparked wild celebrations in the narrow streets of Gibraltar, some of the biggest parties since one native won Miss World in 2009.A completely amateur set-up, from the players to the countrys football association, suddenly had to become a whole lot more professional. Within months, they had been drawn in a European qualifying group containing Germany, Poland, Ireland and Scotland.We have gone from 10 people watching us play to 35,000 people watching us play, Chipolina said in an interview just off the bustling main street that runs through Gibraltar, which has an area of just 7 square kilometres.The past 12 months has been a year of firsts for the Gibraltarians: A first official game — a creditable, unexpected 0-0 against Slovakia in November; a first (and so far only) win — 1-0 over Malta in June; a first Euro qualifier — a 7-0 loss to Poland in September.In their two other Group D qualifiers, theyve lost 7-0 to Ireland and 3-0 to Georgia. No points, no goals.Its been a culture shock for the players. Only three Gibraltar internationals play professionally — two of those in the English lower leagues — with the rest having to balance playing the game they love with holding down a full-time job.Take the teams main striker, Kyle Casciaro. He is an operations manager for a shipping firm in Gibraltar and works 9-6 Monday to Friday, as well as being on call every other weekend. In his spare time, he plays for Lincoln Red Imps — one of eight teams in the amateur Gibraltar Premier Division. They train three, sometimes four, nights a week before a weekend match. Then there is fitness work at the gym.Yesterday, I finished work, went home quickly, changed into my kit, had a banana, then went to get the coach to training in Spain, Casciaro said in an interview during a break from work.Going on international duty with Gibraltar involves taking a week off work for the likes of Casciaro and Lincoln teammate Chipolina, who is a customs officer. Representing Gibraltar in 10 European qualifiers per year requires 50 days off work and they have only 25 days of annual leave. So, they rely on the goodwill of their employers to accept a request from the Gibraltar FA to take special leave for international matches.Its hard enough balancing football, work and family, with your wife nagging at you when you go training every night, Chipolina said with a smile. Then youve got to use your annual leave for football, so you have to tell your wife we arent going on holiday this year.Firemen, a policeman, a store manager, a student, a teacher, a researcher — they come from all walks of life to play for Gibraltar.Admittance to UEFA means Gibraltars players are, however, getting a glimpse of what life would be like as a professional footballer. When they go away for international duty, players now wear suits instead of tracksuits, stay in five-star hotels and VIP areas, and are even starting to be asked for autographs. They follow a strict itinerary, when two years ago they would book their own hotels and everything would be fairly ad hoc.But back at their clubs, life can still be amateurish. Gibraltar midfielder Jeremy Lopez plays in the domestic league for Manchester 62 FC, which holds one of its three training sessions each week on a concrete parking lot behind a hotel.Can you imagine Bastian Schweinsteiger doing that? Lopez said, referring to the Germany midfielder he is about to confront.There are severe challenges and hardships facing Gibraltars footballers. There is only one full-sized field on the territory, at Victoria Stadium near the border with Spain. The arena has to be shared by teams from all leagues and age groups — juniors to seniors, men and women — so time is at a premium.Because Victoria Stadium only has a capacity of about 2,000 and doesnt meet UEFA requirements, Gibraltar has to play its home matches in Faro in Portugal — a five-hour drive for the team and their fans, who usually number around 500. The GFA is looking into building an 8,000-seat stadium at the other end of the territory but that is years away from being a reality.And Gibraltar coach Allen Bula said he realistically has a pool of only about 60 players to choose from when he selects his national squad.Still, Gibraltar isnt complaining, not after what it has been through to get recognition from the global football community. Long-awaited UEFA membership is offering the team and the country new opportunities.Its giving us international exposure, free publicity, PR that money cant buy, said GFA chief executive Dennis Beiso, whose target is for Gibraltar to become the best of the minnows within Europe on and off the field.A daunting trip to Germany awaits but its not the first huge obstacle to have faced Gibraltars footballers.It wont be the last.Its going to be a different level, a different planet, Casciaro said. I think, to be quite honest, they are going to score as many goals as they want. Bill Lee Jersey .C. -- Authorities say the brother of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White has been shot and killed outside a South Carolina nightclub. Pablo Sandoval Jersey . -- Chicago manager Darold Butler has a message for the Windy City. http://www.officialredsoxfanstore.com/authentic-yoenis-cespedes-red-sox-jersey/ . It was well worth the wait. Manning and the Denver Broncos waited eight long months, then another 33 minutes to get the season started because of a lightning storm. If Chad Johnson was hoping for a regular parking space at the home of the Montreal Alouettes, the GMs spot is taken for a few more years. The Als gave Jim Popp a contract extension on Thursday, ending worries the team would suffer added brain drain after losing Marc Trestman to the Chicago Bears. ?Popp has frequently been a candidate for a range of front office jobs including the GM role with the NFLs Carolina Panthers, a team headquartered just a 30-minute drive from his home in North Carolina. Since Popp helped move the Baltimore Stallions north in 1996, the Alouettes are the winningest team in the CFL.? Popp has been the only constant, but sources close to the team admit he had been hoping and planning on returning this season in the dual role of coach and GM.? Entering the final year of his contract, he was surprised by the hiring of Tom Higgins -- a CFL sideline veteran and former director of officiating -- as the teams new head coach. Some have speculated Popps signing of the NFL star formerly known as Ochocinco was as much about putting himself back in the front office job spotlight south of the border as it was gettinng the Bengals all-time leading receiver for Alouette quarterbacks. Babe Ruth Jersey. But Popp has never been shy about taking a chance on NFL talents past their prime: witness Ahman Green, Quincy Carter and the infamous Lawrence Phillips -- who helped Popp and the Als end a 25-year Grey Cup drought back in 2002. The quest for the next great quarterback led Popp to even claim the likes of NFL stars Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Tim Tebow on his negotiating lists. Popps master stroke in recent years was turning an out-of-fashion offensive guru named Marc Trestman into the hottest coaching commodity to come out of Canada in recent decades.? The immediate task for Popp this season is keeping the Als competitive after the retirement of Anthony Calvillo, as Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, will attempt to solidify his teams tentative start with a victory against Winnipeg Friday night.? Popp will soon be packing bags for his annual NFL training camp scouting missions in about two weeks, when hell see his first round selection in the CFL Draft, David Foucault now a rookie hopeful with the Panthers. 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