Lincoln Red Imps captain Roy Chipolina admits he is pinching himself at the prospect of facing Celtic in the Champions League – even though he could get stick from the wife for taking annual leave.
The defender combines working as a customs officer while playing for the 22-times Gibraltarian champions.
That means the 33-year-old and his team-mates are forced to take holidays for their European commitments with the part-time minnows.
Lincoln will have to get past reigning Estonian champions Flora Tallinn to set up a glamour tie against Brendan Rodger’s Celtic and Chipolina is more than willing to request extra time off work.
Chipolina, who also skippered Gibraltar against Scotland in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, said: “The biggest club of the second round is Celtic and being drawn against them is unbelievable, and it provides us with an extra incentive to get past that first round. It’s an amazing tie and a dream tie to play Celtic.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than going to Celtic Park and playing in front of that crowd. You have to pinch yourself to realise that could happen.
“I think everyone had their eyes on Celtic although we all had our eyes on Celtic last year as well when he drew Midtjylland.
“You’re just two games away from playing Celtic and it’s unbelievable.
“Hopefully we can do it, we’ve been working very hard since the season finished in May. We’ve been training every day and trying to fit in stuff after work.
“I’m a Customs Officer. It’s a fairly busy job as you can imagine, you deal with everything really.
“At club level I’ve got to take annual leave to play in these games, which the wife isn’t too happy about.
“At national level, the government in Gibraltar gives us special leave to represent the national team.
“When we’re taking annual leave, we want to make the most of it.
“But the big question is, if we were miraculously able to get through the first round, or even get to the group stages, I don’t know what would happen because we wouldn’t have enough leave left to play in those games.”
The core of the Lincoln squad also represent the British Overseas Territory’s national team and Chipolina is adamant that the experience of facing world champions Germany, Scotland, Poland and Ireland in qualifying for France can stand the team in good stead for the Champions League.
He added: “We’ve been forced to learn quickly over the last couple of years and hopefully those experiences with the national team will help us in the first qualifying round, anyway.
“We’re not playing against any team in this first round that will be anywhere close to that level.
“We’ve played against much better, with all respect to Tallinn, and we know the intensity of the game, tactically – it won’t be the same level.
“We’ve played at a much higher level and we’ve become better players, whether the score lines suggest that or not.
“We’ve become better players now after the European qualifiers and I hope we can show it.
“The main core of the national squad comes from Lincoln and that’s something we can carry into this game.
“Tallinn will be a strong side, they’ve got some Estonian internationalists as well, but we do believe we’re capable of beating them and getting into that second round.”