With Gibraltar’s Euro Qualifiers finished, we caught up with one of the team’s standout performers Jordan Perez as he reflected on the campaign.
Firstly Jordan Perez reflected on how the campaign went, “Obviously as it was our first tournament under the UEFA flag; result wise it wasn’t good at all even though we expected it, but in the past four or five games we have progressed as a team especially attacking wise but defensively we still have to work a lot. All in all I reckon it’s been a very good experience for all of us and one which we would have never imagined to be possible five years ago. It’s been great to be able to represent my country at the highest level of football and the way the lads have been helping each other out whenever we’ve had problems has been great. We have realised the level we have to be at, to be able to compete against big nations such as Germany, Ireland etc. It’s all a matter of training hard and seeing what kind of youth we have coming through the ranks.”
There are two games that stand out for Jordan Perez; the horror show at Ireland and the heroic display against Germany, Perez reflected on the Ireland game, “I was having a very bad period psychologically to be honest as I was the Lincoln keeper for many years and they brought in a new keeper [Raul Navas] and I was never given the chance. I was just pushed aside so morally I was quite low. I was trying to get out of contract and it wasn’t possible before the Ireland game, so I wasn’t match fit and I feel it did affect me. Despite this we were playing against Ireland in the Aviva Stadium and apart from three or four mistakes it was still an avalanche of goals.”
After Jordan’s own goal against Ireland, the keeper was the trending topic on social media. We asked if the situation would have been worse if it happened in Gibraltar, rather than on the international stage, “Yes, at the end of the day we realised that no matter how many people watch you still have to perform to the best of your ability. Even if there’s one hundred people watching or forty thousand people watching, what really matters to a player is their own personal performance, so what people think about it at the end of the day, you either use it in a positive way or you just don’t listen to it. You need to be self critical about your own performances, as I have been at many times. I watched the Ireland game many times and even the own goal I scored I still watch. I laugh about it now but at the time it was very frustrating.”
Jordan Perez reflected on his heroic display against Gibraltar, “For me it was a personal task, I had to prove certain people that what they did to me was a big mistake and at the same time I was thanking them for making me realise that I had a lot more in me to show as a goalkeeper. I made a big decision about leaving Lincoln after so many years at that club and join Lions. It helped me a lot as I was training with Jeff Wood a lot who was the Lions manager at the time, and being at the back foot of a team that wasn’t that good in the league, I progressed as a goalkeeper. When I got to the Germany game I thought to myself that it’s now or never, I need to bring out the best performance I can for at least forty five minutes, because we know what happens after that, the other team steps up and we lower our gear. I was so concentrated that I didn’t even realise that we had fans watching us, it was just the football and the twenty-one other players on the pitch. The standout moment was saving Bastian Schweinsteiger’s penalty as not a lot of keepers can say they have saved the captain of the World Champion’s penalty. That is something I’d tell my grandchildren about for the rest of my life and it is always something I can say that I did.”
On a personal level, Jordan Perez reflected on the lessons he learnt from the tournament, “The physical and mental state has to change drastically. We’ve all changed our diets, training plans and our lifestyle. We don’t do what we used to do when you go out on a Friday night and play on a Saturday, that’s a no gamer for us anymore. We have realised that type of level these professionals are at and that’s why they get paid so much, they’ve been brought up through that regime since a very young age and obviously after they play a game, they fly back to their country and train with the best players and coaches around. While on the other hand we come back and we go back to work so we need to put in that extra effort and train that bit harder to get close to that level.”
The next Euro tournament is in three years, at the time Perez will be 30/31 years old, we asked if he sees himself as Gibraltar’s number one as his rival Jamie Robba will be in his mid 20’s, “If I don’t see myself as number one I will most definitely not be there, I am in the frame of mind that I will continue to fight for my spot until I retire. Obviously with goalkeepers the older they get the more experienced they get so it’s a great situation to be in to help players. At the same time having someone like Jamie Robba knocking on my door keeps me motivated and in shape but I will give it my best shot and fight for my position for as long as it takes.”
As we stated earlier that the next tournament is in three years, we asked how badly affected he thinks the squad will be when Lee Casciaro, Roy Chipolina etc retire internationally, “Definitely, that’s a big worry. To be honest there are only a handful of youngsters that could step up to that challenge. I don’t see the hunger in the youngsters nowadays like there used to be ten years ago when there was no money to collect, it was just a hobby. I think the national squad is going to suffer humongously and the number of foreign players in our league isn’t going to help at all. As for the development of kids I think we need to bring in managers from abroad with high qualifications, either to help local managers or to make a good setup of kids to develop them. Once the big names leave I think we have a big job of replacing them.”
Perez gave us an insight of the change of managers throughout the tournament affected the team, “Tricky questions, we need to remember that we only just started at this level and no matter how many managers you bring along, it is going to be very difficult to change the team. Although recently with Dave Wilson in Scotland and Jeff Wood recently, we have seen a vast improvement in the way the players tried to approach the game with the confidence they have, and there is much more tranquility in the camp. Players are more relaxed in the sense that they have the full backing of the manager, which has helped develop and motivate the team to be better than we were.
Lastly Perez spoke on his ambitions for the future, “I think there should be a complete restructure of the way the league is going ahead in Gibraltar. I welcome the influx of foreign players as it is going to improve our league but there are many players coming from abroad that I don’t see as being better than what we have locally. At the same time though the local players have thrown the towel away and don’t want to compete. They just want to go and play in the Second Division and just play for fun but at least I think there should be some sort of cap on how many foreign players you can have on the pitch at one time, like many other small nations have done.”
Football Gibraltar would like to thank Jordan Perez for his time and wish him the best of luck for the future.