It’s easy to remember the first game; not so much the second, the third, the fourth, (you get the picture) but the first game in Boca Gibraltar history, a fond memory indeed, as our team of ‘fresh out of university’ locals fell short (for the first time but certainly not the last) at the hands of a side of veterans, in no uncertain terms. A fantastic idea set alight by a group of friends to create a team of friends led in our initial 2011/2012 season by Lawrence Podesta, one of the masterminds in the project with experience managing locally. Unfortunately not even he could manufacture miracles out of a side who had arrived back from university, well let’s just say, not in the peak of our physical powers, more used to scoring shots of tequila than scoring goals. A couple of certainly fun, if not hugely successful, seasons transpired before another friend took over the reigns, namely Julian Berllaque… Berllaque by name, Berlak by nature (no that doesn’t make any sense to me either). The local metaphorical ball was well and truly rolling with football on the Rock after Gibraltar was accepted into UEFA in 2013; a decision which infinitely increased the appeal of local sides, investors came in looking for a project with the potential of European qualification now a reality and as a result the second division was no longer ‘Sunday League’ as we liked to call it, but rather a competitive tussle in which many of the initial Boca members could no longer thrive (not that we had ever done any thriving in the first place).
Fast forward to 2017/2018, a new look Boca Gibraltar, still at the helm supported and to a certain extent controlled by its founder members, but the reigns had been well and truly handed over to new technical director and former goalkeeper Philip Hermida, in one of the biggest career changes since Ant Man went from systems engineer to unlikely superhero, and a superhero was exactly how Hermida turned out for the club. A tough summer sorting out an array of new signings along with head coach Juanjo Pomares Garcia, who unfortunately had to sit out most of the season in the stands, only adding to the task at hand, but a task which both excelled at in supreme fashion. Upon witnessing Boca’s first game of the season, a comprehensive 4-0 thrashing of a well-hyped Leo side, we knew this wasn’t the same old Boca. A spark was there, a spark which in reality had very rarely been witnessed in the yellow and blue of the side, led by a goalscorer the likes of which the second division has rarely seen. Alberto Valdivia, a hattrick on his debut, a sign of things to come we thought; and right we were. A 2-1 victory against rivals Olympique followed, before disappointment, but no success story is ever void of disappointment and in some respects no surprise to lose 3-2 against our ‘bogey’ side Cannons. Scraping past the leagues whipping boys Hound Dogs and College 1975 by successive 1-0 scorelines didn’t too much to fill us with confidence that this was indeed going to be our year, and we were fearing the worst after the next game, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Europa Point. The season was almost half done, we were in December and the early promise had very quickly faded, this wasn’t going to be our year, was it? It was going to fizzle out in typical Boca fashion after hopes had been raised, but wrong we were once again and if wrong meant Boca turning their season around, then baby I didn’t wanna be right.
The last game before the much needed long Christmas/New Years break to relay the Victoria Stadium turf was a nervy affair. We knew we had to win to keep our promotion dreams alive and we did. Again struggling to a 1-0 win over Angels FC thanks to a goal from Castillo Rafoso. Unfortunately, though a win that would later be taken from us due to Angels FC being kicked out of the league for not adhering to the local player rule, a decision which was once again a big setback in our quest, but we used it to become even more determined. The 4thof February was the date of our first game back, a huge one, against fellow promotion hopefuls Brunos Magpies. Valdivia scored in the 1stminute (he was back from a long-term injury, part of the reason we had struggled to find the net in many of the previous 4 or 5 games) and that set the tone for the rest of the campaign in reality. A 2-1 victory… we were back. 6-0 and 3-2 victories over Leo and Cannons respectively was sandwiched in between by a disappointing 2-0 loss to rivals Olympique, but results went our way in other fixtures and the dream was still well and truly alive and our fate was very much in our hands… did we have the quality and passion to succeed? You bet we did… an 8-1 demolition of Hound Dogs, followed by 3-0 victory against College 1975 before the penultimate game of the season saw us beat Europa Point FC 4-0, with another Valdivia hattrick. Far and away the second division’s top scorer by this point, the most goals scored by a Boca striker ever, actually scrap that… Boca’s record goalscorer of all time and he’d only played 11 games… we knew we had someone special in our books.
The scene was set going into the last game of the season. Due to Olympique’s superior goal difference we knew losing to Bruno’s meant it was all for nothing, we would miss out on a playoff spot against Lynx FC for a place in next season’s first division. It was finish first… or nothing. We had the slight advantage of knowing a draw would be good enough but knew that mean Bruno’s would be giving it all for the win, and did they ever. One of the tightest, most nail-biting, most watched second division games in the league’s history ensued. Broadcasted live on Boca Facebook’s stream, a feature which we had attempted to do all season, which reached a peak of 84 viewers for the game, with fans joining us from around the world for the nonsensical commentary… well more for the game, but the nonsensical commentary is a nice addition (I like to think). Valdivia pounced on a moment of hesitation from Hull in the Bruno’s goal, elation in the Boca end.. 1-0. Boca remained on top for the rest of the first half but couldn’t add to their lead. The half-time break saw Bruno’s regroup and come out more determined than ever with a goal in the 53rdminute equalising the virtual playoff and ensuring it would be a final 35 minutes that would keep everyone on the edge of their seats. Some truly unbelievable moments followed, Brunos hitting the crossbar twice in the final half an hour, Boca keeper Jamie Carlin producing a memorable save on one occasion to keep Boca in the ascendancy. Some heroic performances from the blue and yellow, too many that indeed it would be unfair to single out anyone in particular, because every man who stepped on that pitch gave their all for the cause. Bruno’s threw everything at it, but it wasn’t to be for David Wilson’s men. Boca stood firm and scenes of jubilation in the stands and pitch alike (as well as throughout the night in Ocean Village) was the result as Boca had escaped with a 1-1 draw, winning the Second Division for the first time in the club’s history and equally securing promotion to the promised land. The likes of Lincoln Red Imps and Europa FC will be facing Boca Gibraltar next season and none of us could be any happier; as indicated by the many ‘sick days’ round the rock by Boca fans on the day following their success. Does a place in Europe beckon? Will we soon be dancing on the streets of Total Network Solutions after beating them 2-1 in the first leg of a Europa League 1stqualifying round tie? Its unlikely… I’ll take survival… but thanks to the exploits of this season, the future is well and truly Boca!
by Stefan Borge