There has been a lot of consternation over the inclusion of a Great Britian football team in next summer’s London Olympics. From several quarters there has been stinging criticism resulting in confusion over players and what the repercussions of such a decision (fielding a team that includes English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish players) will have on the national identities of each country.

The areas for dispute are notable; it has already been brought up by both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger that they would prefer their youth players were left out (especially if they’re playing in both Euro 2012 and the Olympics). With Olympic teams having an age restriction (generally under-23 with three overage players allowed in), it narrows the pool of players from which coaches Stuart Pearce and Hope Powell can choose.

…not in favour of their participation,

The bigger problem that Pearce and Powell face though is an overwhelming reluctance from the rest of the Home Nations concerning the availability of their players. Despite the excitement from Welsh and Scottish players, their respective football associations are not in favour of their participation, lest FIFA see them in an unfavourable light when it comes to their independent membership (a fear that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has quashed). While those independent associations cannot restrict their players from playing (they signed a document in 2009 allowing England to set up a team), it certainly adds to the pressure surrounding the coaching staff.

Another fly in the ointment takes the form of 400 metres champion Dai Greene who has come out suggesting that most athletes believe that footballers should not be allowed to compete. Greene highlights their (assumed) lack of interest in becoming an Olympic Champion and insinuates they have a vested interest in league titles, as well as playing in Europe and competing in European/World Championships.

…best young players…

Which belatedly brings this article to its point; should there be a Great Britain team for 2012? Would the team be competitive if the best young players in the country were dissuaded from playing?

It is a difficult subject to broach, especially considering the ramifications for clubs, countries and the team itself were taken into account. However as the host country, regardless of national identity or supposed interest, Great Britain should take to the field next year.

…not be many chances to play…

Regardless of what Dai Greene says, an ill-judged comment on footballers who strive to win any tournament they participate in, there simply has to be a team representing the British Isles for the fact that there will not be many chances to play at the Olympics on your own turf. There have been even fewer chances for supporters in these isles to see a unified team playing in the competition (since 1960). To miss this opportunity over squabbles over national identity may seem a pertinent concern to some but surely people will see that this is an opportunity that comes along very rarely.

It may seem like a passionate and patriotic take on the subject but it won’t just be England fans flying the flag but the whole nation, and that is something to get behind.

Image courtesy of the 2012 Olympics


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