Published: 00:00, 08 June 2017
International football has helped Deren Ibrahim get rid of the nerves which used to plague him at Dartford.
Ibrahim is set to win his fourth cap for Gibraltar tomorrow (Friday) when they host Cyprus in a World Cup qualifier.
The 26-year-old made his international debut in October against a Belgium side which included Eden Hazard, Christian Benteke, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Thibaut Courtois.
Ibrahim kept his place for the trip to Cyprus in November and also started in Bosnia-Herzegovina in March.
He said: "You can’t beat the experience, it’s unbelievable.
"From a footballing point of view, it is tough. You want to be as competitive as you can but, playing against some of the bigger nations, it is tough. You’re playing against world-class players.
"It’s made me have a different mindset to the games at Dartford.
"When I was younger, I struggled a lot with nerves and that’s probably why it took me so long to get into the first team. I was technically ready but mentally, I wasn’t.
"People might not realise that, only me and Tony (Burman) would realise because we worked a lot on that.
"Now, coming away with Gibraltar, you can’t get bigger than playing these sort of games.
"In August, we’ve got Belgium away and it’s going to be a 30,000 sellout.
"At the last game against Bosnia, there were 16,000 there so to play in front of that as a National South player is fantastic."
Gibraltar only gained Fifa membership 13 months ago and for now they’re at the foot of the world rankings alongside the likes of Eritrea, Somalia and Tonga.
But Ibrahim said: "We train hard, prepare right and give it a go. The target for Gibraltar is to get the first points in a European qualifier and hopefully I can be part of that.
"It will happen sooner rather than later because there’s some quality youngsters coming through and they’re all now starting to get exposed to international football at an early age. That’s only going to benefit them and the nation.
"Playing for Gibraltar, it’s immense pride. I was on the bench for my first game against Estonia and that’s when it really hit.
"In the build-up, it still didn’t feel real but hearing the national anthem for the first time was amazing.
"The Cyprus game will be a great occasion because I qualify through my mum’s mum and my mum will be at the game.
"She’s flying out so it’ll be the first time she’ll see me live, which I’m looking forward to. That will be great for us as a family."
Gibraltar v Cyprus kicks off at 7.45pm on Friday.
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