Georgeito-Silva Nunes: Crossing the border to play in Gibraltar

Gibraltar may only have a land area of just over two-and-a-half miles but there is a thriving footballing community on the British Overseas Territory. Ever since the Gibraltar Football Association was accepted as a member of UEFA in 2013, the country’s domestic football has continued to improve from the increased funding clubs have received since. Add acceptance to FIFA in 2016 and the territory has become increasingly attractive to foreign players.

Georgeito-Silva Nunes was one of those foreign players in the country last year. The Londoner with Portuguese and Angolan heritage started this season with Gibraltarian side Bruno’s Magpies but is now back in England after an impressive spell where he did not lose a match.

Before his move abroad though, Nunes had built up an impressive footballing education growing up, having been on the books of both West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers, something he says help shape him as a player.

“Having played for a number of academy setups, especially as a young kid, you do pick up a lot of experience being around the first team – players you dream of being with after seeing them on TV,” he says. “Being an understudy of big figures of the clubs helps to mould and cement your work ethic within the environment to be that big player.

“It also helps to learn a lot, as knowledge gained from players and coaches is passed down to you for you to then do the same as you progress through the ranks but also making you a better player and person.”

After leaving QPR in 2016, the midfielder had a spell with Southend United later on before looking for something entirely new last summer. It wouldn’t take long for him to find that move as he was offered the chance to join Gibraltar Second Division side Bruno’s Magpies.

“I met up with an company called Soccer Smart, they’re a bunch of good guys. They have links all over but had a very good link with the Magpies and their coach. I ended up joining as they have had a few other players out there. 

“They pretty much helped secure the move for me, which played out to be a good move for me at the time. I wanted a change in scenery and to experience a different playing
style under a new coaching staff. Seeing as it was hot all year round as well, it pretty much convinced me to make the journey.”

All smiles after another Magpies goal

Magpies were formed in 2013 and have competed in the second of the territory’s two divisions ever since but in recent years have improved significantly. The club are managed by former Gibraltar national team assistant manager, Scotsman Davie Wilson and have several more English players on their books, including Finnlay Wyatt who has previously played in the USL with Richmond Kickers.

The 24-year-old settled in well, finding similarities to his ancestral homeland, although with the territory’s 2.6 square miles already housing over 30,000 people, he had live across the border.

“For the duration of the time spent out there I was living in Spain in La Linea, just by the Spanish border. I would have to cross the border to get into Gibraltar most days. I settled in very well, it was a good area with good people.

“Having a Portuguese background, it had similarities to where I am from in Funchal, Madeira. Having my teammates around and the people I met along the way made it enjoyable.”

Having settled in well, the midfielder started the league campaign as captain in a match against College 1975 back in August and could not have got off to a better start as his side won 6-0. His side then followed that up with three victories, including an 8-1 win as Magpies made an imposing start to the season. Of course there were no tricky away ties to worry about either with every match in Gibraltar played on the same stadium, the only stadium in the terrority, Victoria Stadium.

“The country still has some progression to make but other than that, I found it beautiful,” he says. “The football was played on the floor, a lot of similarities to the Spanish football seeing as there was quite a lot of Spaniards on the island.

“Maybe the second division could have been harder and more challenging against a few teams but no disrespect to them. I was still able to enjoy and express myself.”

After a draw in their next league game, the club went on to win their next five with Nunes going eight starts unbeaten.

“In terms of making an impact in matches, I had that much more knowledge to read the game better than other players and having a strong physical presence,” he says. “Most games I’d hurt opposition with the pace and strength I have – not many were able to deal with it.

“Coming to a new country with certain experience and knowledge, I feel I had
more of an edge to the other players and was maybe of a better standard but again, no disrespect to them.”

That meant by the end of the year, the Magpies were four points clear at the top of the table with a goal difference of 35, therefore in pole position to earn promotion to the top flight. The Gibraltar Premier Division offers the chance of qualification to the Champions League and Europa League and is where the big money on the island lies.

Victoria Stadium, the territory’s only stadium right by the airport runway.

With the club placed well in the league and in cup competitions too, it seemed set to be a productive season for Nunes but he decided to live the club at the end of last year, something he would have preferred to not have done.

“A few mishaps within the club regarding wages is why I had to leave. I mean I didn’t want to leave but what can I say these things happen within football clubs. We were en route to winning the league and maybe the cup competitions as well. It would have been a big achievement on my behalf as my first season as team captain, something that I have never done before.

“We didn’t leave on bad terms. they are still considered as my family and still in contact. We’ve made great bonds with each other and I hope they make me proud by smashing the league and cup.”

The club has since picked up the Gibraltar Second Division Cup trophy so are showing no signs of slowing down. As for Nunes, his next adventure awaits.

“Right now, I am focusing on making the next step to another country, still ticking over and getting fitter and stronger. I have been for a few trials since being back in England but I think I want to conquer another country and play in their major domestic league and cups.

“Hopefully somewhere in Europe where I can maybe get the chance to
experience European continental football.”

Playing in Gibraltar shows that no matter how small a country, there can still be a thriving football scene. For Nunes, he has helped his former side on the path to glory and they could well make a big impact in the top flight if they do go on to earn promotion.

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