Lincoln Red Imps captain Roy Chipolina insists the Gibraltan champions have gone from Sunday League to the Champions League.
The defender is revelling in the Red Imps’ meteoric rise having been part of the club since it’s amateur days.
The undoubted highlight in Lincoln’s remarkable journey is the upcoming second qualifying round clash against Celtic after they beat Estonian side Flora 3-2 on aggregate.
Tuesday’s visit of Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops will be the part-timers’ fifth European game after the Gibraltar FA were only admitted to UEFA as a full member in 2013.
Chipolina, who also skippered the Gibraltar team in the Euro 2016 qualifiers in games against the likes of Scotland, world champions Germany and Poland, admits 22-times title winners Lincoln have come a long way after setting up a glamour Champions League tie against Celtic.
The 33-year-old said: “Guys like Lee Casciaro and myself, we’ve played for Lincoln since we were about five or six years old.
“The only way I can can explain it or compare it to anywhere in Scotland or England is that it’s like playing for a Sunday League team and, as you’ve got older, it’s moved into semi-pro and now you’re playing Celtic. It’s just unbelievable.
“The lads are ecstatic. Getting through to the second round was our aim just like it was last year. We’ve done it and the present is playing Celtic.
“Who was going to tell us three years ago that we’d be playing Champions League football, never mind the mighty Celtic, a team that has won the European Cup before – it’s surreal.
“The game against Celtic can’t come soon enough, I’m speechless about the whole thing to be honest.”
Chipolina insists the players are representing the British Overseas Territory’s entire 32,000 population as well as the club.
Lincoln also reached the second qualifying round last season after beating Andorran side Santa Coloma before being defeated 3-0 on aggregate by Danish club Midtjylland.
In their first season in the competition in 2014 they were beaten 5-2 over two legs by HB Torshav of the Faroe Islands.
At national level, the team will play in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers for the first time after also being inducted into FIFA in May, and Chipolina reckons the Hoops clash is a great platform to showcase Gibraltan football.
He added: “I can’t explain how big a dream this is for all of us and the whole of Gibraltar, it’s just unbelievable.
“We’re extremely proud of what we’re doing with the national team and now this, it shows we are moving forward slowly but surely, and hopefully we’ll see Gibraltar football grow.
“That was the aim of getting into UEFA and now FIFA, we carry on improving and hopefully that transfers to the national level. That’s what we all want.
“At club level we’re proving it, this is the second year running we’ve got into the Champions League second round.
“The jump, with all due to respect to Flora, to Celtic is massive but you never know. At the end of the day it’s eleven against eleven, and we’ll do all we can to be successful.”
“I’m sure we’ll do Gibraltar proud whatever the score is, we aim to do ourselves justice.”