Picture: Tony Greenwood
By Chris Dunlavy
THEY smashed seven past Brazil, slapped the shackles on Messi and became the first Europeans ever to win the World Cup on South American soil.
Yet in just a few months time the superstars of Germany will do battle with a PE teacher from Yorkshire who plays part-time for Farsley.
Adam Priestley is more used to rowdy kids than screaming fans and is more likely to pitch up at Mossley than the Maracana.
But a call up to the newly formed Gibraltar national team last year gave the 24-year-old the chance to become an international striker and now, after being drawn in a Euro 2016 qualifying group with Germany, the chance to tackle the world’s finest footballers.
“It’s crazy to think that five years ago I was playing at my local club with a load of my mates,” says Priestley, who was born in Gibraltar whilst his father served in the RAF.
“If someone had said then ‘In five years time you’ll be in a group with Germany, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Georgia’, I’d have laughed at them and said there wasn’t a chance.
“The thought of being on the pitch with Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Schweinsteiger, players of that sort of calibre, it’s just incredible. When you’re 23, 24 and you play in Non-League, you think it’s too late for you.
“This is like a little glimmer of hope, an amazing opportunity and one the whole of Gibraltar squad – and Gibraltar as a nation – want to make the most of.
“To be playing the world’s best team is beyond any of our dreams, but then so is playing in qualifiers. We can’t wait.”
Six of Gibraltar’s players are based in England and Wales, among them Kidderminster’s Reece Styche and new Bala Town man David Artell. Another plays for a pro club in Israel but the remainder are all part-time players from the tiny British territory.
“We’ve got a little group on Whatsapp and we’ve been chatting away throughout the World Cup,” explains Priestley, who was on the books at Leeds as a schoolboy.
“And when it got to Germany v Argentina in the final we were all rooting for Germany because the chance to play the World champions won’t come round to often for most of us.
“People ask if it’s scary, especially after they hit seven past Brazil. But for players like us, who never dreamed it would happen, it’s just exciting.”
Gibraltar’s first official match was in November, an impressive 0-0 draw with Slovakia. And while defeats to Estonia and the Faroe Islands dented optimism, a 1-0 victory over Malta has got Priestley dreaming ahead of September’s opener against Poland.
“We’ve got a lot of optimism,” he adds. “I don’t think the manager wants us to get hammered, so first and foremost we have to be a solid unit.
“But he’ll also want us to show what we can do with the ball and if we get a bit of luck maybe we can get a few results and send a few shockwaves round Europe. You never know.”