British Olympic soccer team becomes right royal farce

March 13, 2009

There has not been one since 1960, the Scottish don’t want its return, neither do the Welsh, nor the Northern Irish and yet the prospect of a British soccer team at the 2012 London Olympics remains.

The English Football Association is refusing to relinquish an idea that nobody else seems to care about.

The other home nations’ standpoint, which centres on protecting their independent status within world governing body FIFA, means any British team in London could be made up entirely of English players, or more accurately, the majority of the England under-21 team.

“What a farce it would be to have those qualification games in Wales and Scotland without the possibility of British participation,” UK Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said this week, before stating that English players will be used if the issue is not resolved.

‘Farce’ or words like it have been used a lot in this debate.

The idea is struggling for credibility and the general reticence does not fit the image of the Olympics as a celebration of the coming together of different countries. Not a good look for a host nation.

I can see the headlines now as the English FA attempt to wheel out a retired David Beckham to help paper over the absence of other home nation players. Perhaps the English players could take it upon themselves to devise their best Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish accents as compensation.

Without the co-operation of all the home nations, the team surely cannot play under a British flag.

Soccer is not high on the list of Olympic events or in viewing priority for Games spectators, meaning the English FA may struggle to find sympathisers for their cause.

The soccer tournament at the 2008 Beijing Olympics included world-class footballers such as Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho of Brazil and yet still audiences chose to watch any number of other events on offer.

It might be the most dominant sport in the world at any other time, but soccer loses its appeal at the Olympics.

Give me a bit of rhythmic gymnastics any day.

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