“They will play with one team but it is up to them how they do it.”

As Gonzo noted back in July, Tony Blair had said he thought “it would be a good idea” to have a Great Britain [and NI – Ed] football team at the 2012 London Olympics, the difficulty would be getting the four football associations to agree. Today’s Guardian reports that at a meeting on Thursday two of the four did agree – the Scottish and Welsh FAs did not attend. A British women’s football team will compete in Beijing 2008, and both a men’s and women’s team in London 2012From the Guardian

A meeting of the four home nations’ FAs called by the BOA on Thursday was not attended by the Welsh and Scottish but it was still agreed to enter a British women’s team for the 2008 Beijing Games and men’s and women’s teams for London 2012.

“We will be going ahead anyway and my aspiration is to field the strongest possible teams and I would hope that sports administrators would not hold back their finest footballers, men or women, from participating in this great event,” said Simon Clegg, chief executive of the BOA. “It is the BOA who selects the team to go to the games.”

The article notes the attempts to re-assure the Scottish and Welsh FAs

Even though Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa and a member of the International Olympic Committee, has written to Scotland and Wales to try to reassure them they have nothing to worry about by entering the Olympics, they are still concerned that the international governing bodies would use it as a weapon to force them to compete under a British flag in major tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships.

Blatter again last night guaranteed the independence of the Scots and Welsh. “We have confirmed in writing that they have to provide a Great Britain team for the 2012 Olympics but the four British associations will not lose the rights and privileges acquired back in 1947,” a spokesman for Fifa said. “They will play with one team but it is up to them how they do it. It can be a mixed team, it can be from just one of the home nations, whatever they want to do.”

Also worth pointing to is that the Olympic football teams are open to any player under the age of 23.

Britain has not qualified for the final stages of the Olympic football tournament since 1960 but an amateur team did continue to try to qualify until 1972, when they were knocked out by a virtually full-strength Bulgarian team. The rules have since changed and the Olympics are open to any player under the age of 23 and in many parts of the world are considered the second most important tournament after the World Cup.

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  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Sounds like an exciting proposition: an ‘England with David Healey making the tea’ scenario.

  • dodrade

    I don’t really see the need for football at the Olympics, neither needs the other.

  • Mick O’Dwyer

    There should be a Britsh soccer team at the Olympics just as basketball, tennia and other games the USA dominate are played there. These things, like the soccer world cup, are spectacles for the overweight armchair brigade. As soccer is a minority game in Ireland with a minuscule following, Ireland should not waste its mone4y sending a soccer team to the Olympics but should instead concentrate on sports like boxing where there is a sporting chance of winning a medal. Essentially, in Ireland, public monies should go to the GAA and non sectarian sports like boxing and cycling. Garrsion games and uper class sports should not get anything but the contempt they deserve. What the Brits do is their own business.

    Calling soccer football is insulting and deliberately provocative. It smacks of the old British arrogance that will not even put its name on postage stamps or coins.

    The good thing about a British soccer team is the Orange wasters will have minimal representation unless they dig up George best and put a shirt on him.

    The fact is in Ireland Gaelic rules. Emigrate if you want to watch good soccer.

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    And the award for most pointless and clueless entry on a thread? Come on down, Mick O’Dwyer.

    ‘There should be a Britsh soccer team at the Olympics just as basketball, tennia and other games the USA dominate are played there’ – the current men’s Basketball Olympic champions are Argentina, the current world champions in the men’s game are Spain and the current World Champions in the women’s game are Australia. The current tennis olympic champions are Massu from Chile and Henin-Hardenne from Belgium. There are currently just two Americans in the Top 20 in the men’s game and only one in the top 20 of the women’s game. The US is hardly dominant.

    ‘soccer is a minority game in Ireland with a minuscule following’ – keep on dreaming mate. 40,000+ regularly turn up at Lansdowne Road to watch this minority sport. I suppose in 1990, 1994 and 2002 only a ‘minuscule’ number of Irish were interested when those Irish football teams with players no-one had ever heard of, managed by nobodies were playing in that minor competition the World Cup.

    ‘Ireland should not waste its mone4y sending a soccer team to the Olympics’ – this article is about the GB&NI team so your point is essentially superfluous.

    ‘..but should instead concentrate on sports like boxing where there is a sporting chance of winning a medal’ – so you would deny anybody without a chance of winning a medal a place at the Olympics? I hate to break it to you but at the last two summer Olympics Ireland has won a grand total of 1 silver medal. Of the 106 who went to Athens, by your reasoning, probably less than 10 should’ve gone. As for boxing, there was only one Irish representative who made it to the Olympics, and he lost in round 2, so maybe the Irish shouldn’t waste any money on boxing either.

    ‘Essentially, in Ireland, public monies should go to the GAA and non sectarian sports like boxing and cycling – I see, you make the distinction between GAA and ‘non sectarian’ sports – nice one.

    ‘Garrsion games and uper class sports should not get anything but the contempt they deserve’ – go ahead, I’m sure football will somehow struggle on with or without your support.

    ‘Calling soccer football is insulting and deliberately provocative’ – football is football, billions of people around the world call it football. Don’t flatter yourself that people call it football just to piss you off.

    ‘The good thing about a British soccer team is the Orange wasters will have minimal representation unless they dig up George best and put a shirt on him’ – nice bit of sectarianism there. I presume by ‘Orange wasters’ you mean Northern Ireland football players, Protestant and Catholic? The Olympics are 6 years away, and football in the Olympics is an under-23 competition, so unless you have a crystal ball who knows what the make-up of a GB&NI team would be.

    ‘The fact is in Ireland Gaelic rules’ – absolutely, but Gaelic football isn’t an Olympic sport so your point is superfluous. Given Ireland’s performance in the last Compromise Rules Series, there would be no guarantee of a gold medal, even if it was an Olympic sport.

    ‘Emigrate if you want to watch good soccer’ – you shouldn’t have to, RTE shows plenty of the garrison game.

    I don’t know if you were trolling, but your points are lazy and cliched. I hope you choke on your Guinness when thousands turn up at Croke Park to watch the Garrison Games.

  • smcgiff

    TWGM,

    Having fun with the troll? 😉

  • willowfield

    Very sceptical about this story as I don’t believe that the Irish FA would have voted for a British Olympic team.

  • POL

    Scottish want nothing to do with them, Welsh want nothing to do with them, But the wee northern irelanders are biting at the bit.

  • willowfield

    They’re not. That’s precisely why I’m sceptical about the story.

    Your comment is made from a position of ignorance. How sad for you.

  • George

    Willowfield,
    unlike the Welsh and Scots, the IFA refused to rule out voting for a British Olympic football team in 2005 so why do you think they have now reached a conclusive decision against rather than for?

  • willowfield

    unlike the Welsh and Scots, the IFA refused to rule out voting for a British Olympic football team in 2005

    How do you know?

    so why do you think they have now reached a conclusive decision against rather than for?

    It’s not in the IFA’s interests, and my information anyway is that the IFA is opposed.

    I suspect the story is wrong in implying that the Irish FA was at the meeting in question.

  • George

    Willowfield,
    “How do you know”

    That’s what the BBC say:
    “Simon Clegg, the British Olympic Association chief executive, said last year: “It is with considerable disappointment that we have learnt of the SFA’s decision. We are disappointed that Scotland’s most talented athletes will be denied the chance of competing in the Games when they are being staged in their own country.”

    You say it isn’t in the IFA’s interests, I’ll give you two words:

    Maze stadium

  • George

    Willowfield,
    in yesterday’s independent:

    “Clegg confirmed that a British women’s team – composed of English and Northern Irish players at least – would play in Beijing,” at the 2008 Olympics.

    http://sport.independent.co.uk/football/internationals/article1772319.ece

  • willowfield

    George

    The piece you quote from Simon Clegg makes no mention of the Irish FA’s supposed refusal to rule out voting for a British Olympic team.

    As for the Maze stadium, how do you think that makes supporting a British Olympic team in the IFA’s interests?

    The quote about the women’s team is, I concede, quite ominous. But you have nothing relating to any direct IFA statement on the matter?

  • George

    Willowfield,
    I am saying the IFA are the only ones who won’t to rule out participating. I have heard no confirmation.

    IFA President Jim Boyce last year:
    “We are keeping our options open on whether we want to be involved in the Great Britain team. This is only 2005 and there is still a long way to go to the Games.”

    As for the Maze, just my own conspiracy theory here, but they need it to start soon if it is to be ready for a match at the 2012 Games.

    It is in the IFA’s interest to get the Maze project started ASAP and the Olympics is a good vehicle for some movement.

  • willowfield

    Thanks for the quotation, George. Why did you withhold it the first time I asked?

    Re. the Maze, I can’t see how the participation or otherwise of a UK team has any bearing on the Maze White Elephant being used for the (low-key and unimportant) Olympic football tournament since the football tournament will be held regardless of the UK’s participation.

    But you may be right that it is figuring in the IFA’s own calculations (and maybe in Government pressure).

    This whole thing is a mess.

  • George

    Willowfield,
    I didn’t withhold it, I just remembered something to that effect being said and only tracked it down when you asked me to source it. It took a while.

    I agree the whole thing is a mess and that a couple of matches in 2012 should have no bearing on this stadium. But I get the impression the IFA, rightly or wrongly, see some leverage for their stadium here.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that a UK football team will take part in 2012, it’s just a question as to whether Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish players are involved.

  • willowfield

    Fair enough, George, you seem to have been following this more closely than I have.

    I hope you are wrong, but you are probably right.

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    Wllowfield: ‘the (low-key and unimportant) Olympic football tournament’ Sorry, but you are wrong on both counts – the Olympic football tournament is neither low-key nor unimportant. I’m afraid you view Olympic football with that uniquely British perspective of a country which hasn’t appeared in an Olympic football tournament for decades – just because the BBC doesn’t show it live doesn’t mean that it is not important.

    Ever since 100,000+ people turned up at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in 1984 for the gold-medal match in a country deeply apathetic towards football, both the IOC and FIFA have recognised the importance of Olympic football. Since LA 84 the football has normally been the most attended of any sport at each Olympics and a huge money-spinner for Olympic organisers. The football tournament is the only Olympic sport to be played around the country and gives the rest of an Olympic-hosting country the chance to see some Olympic sport. To give you an idea of the ‘low-key’ nature of Olympic football, 104,098 people turned up to the Olympic stadium in Sydney to see Cameroon take on Spain!

    As for its importance, as the original article states, many countries view it as second-only to the World Cup. Brasil who have never won the tournament are desperate to win it, and there are huge ramifications every time they fail. The other South American superpower Argentina also view it with massive importance. Just look at the players that these countries fielded in the 1996 Olympics:
    Brasil – Dida, Aldair, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Bebeto, Juninho, Rivaldo
    Argentina – Ayala, Cavallero, Chamot, Crespo, Claudio Lopez, Ortega, Simeone, Zanetti

    Both these teams though were beaten by Nigera (whose team included Kanu, Amokachi, Babayaro, Ikpeba, West and Okocha). The Nigerian gold medal victory was an event of massive importance in Africa, as was the Cameroon win 4 years later in a tournament which featured the likes of Ronaldhino, Eto’o, Puyol, Pirlo and Lauren. Far from reducing the quality, restricting the tournament to under-23 (with 3 over-age players) has created a more-level playing field between the more ‘professional’ countries of Europe and South America, and the emerging nations.

    However, its not just the developing countries who place importance on Olympic football. Admittedly in Europe, winning Olympic gold would be behind both a World Cup win and a European Championships victory, this didn’t stop Italy postponing the start of Serie A so that its national team could play in Athens. The Italians (featuring future World up winners Pirlo and de Rossi) could only win a bronze behind Argentina. The gold-medallists’ squad included Ayala, Heinze, Mascherano, Kily Gonzalez, Tevez and Saviola. It was Argentina’s first Olympic Gold medal in 52 years – try telling them that Olympic football is low-key or unimportant.

  • Perhaps there should be a single UK soccer team full time anyway. Why should they have 4 teams? Most, if not ALL, other states only have a single team.

  • harpo

    ‘Ireland should not waste its mone4y sending a soccer team to the Olympics’

    Mick O’D:

    Maybe you aren’t aware of the rules, but countries have to qualify to send their soccer teams to the Olympics. There is no automatic right to take part at the Olympics.

    In the case of the European countries, 4 teams qualify to go to the Olympics, based on the top 4 teams in the UEFA U-21 Championships. In the case of the 2008 Olympics the 4 European representatives will be the top 4 teams at the 2007 UEFA U-21 Championships.

    You don’t need to worry about the ROI wasting any money on a 2008 team for the Olympics, since the ROI won’t be qualifying for the 2007 2007 UEFA U-21 Championshipss anyway – they have been eliminated in group play.

    For the 2012 Olympics, there will be a men’s team there representing the UK – they have to provide a team as hosts. That will leave only 3 places open for European teams to qualify for – they will be the top 3 teams at the 2011 UEFA U-21 Championships.

    I seriously doubt if the ROI will come anywhere close to one of those places, but say that they do.

    Are you saying that the ROI shouldn’t send a soccer team to the Olympics, even though they were good enough to qualify for it?

    Talk about arrogance. You claim that soccer is a minority sport in the ROI, and that may well be, but so are many of the other sports that the ROI does send people to the Olympics for.

    Based on what you say, and given that you claim that GAA sports are number 1 in the ROI, why doesn’t the ROI just go the whole hog and withdraw from the Olympics altogether? The ROI wins few medals anyway, and if your attitude is typical, you GASA loving folks wouldn’t miss the Olympics one bit.

    So why not start a campaign to withdraw altogether?

  • harpo

    ‘the (low-key and unimportant) Olympic football tournament since the football tournament will be held regardless of the UK’s participation.’

    Willowfield:

    The UK HAS TO provide teams for both the men’s and women’s Olympic tournaments in 2012, because they are the hosts.

    How the UK comes up with teams is irrelevant, but they have to have teams.

    As for your comment about it being low-key and unimportant, I presume you are speaking for yourself. Not that your opinion wouldn’t be uncommon among football fans within the UK.

    But I think this betrays the usual British attitude of things. If folks in the UK say that something is low-key and unimportant, then that’s the way it is to them. I find this attitude antiquated, and it explains a lot of the attitude of British football supporters when faced with the reality that they aren’t too successful in world terms these days.

    So while the average NI fan wonders why Asian and African teams are at the World Cup – simply because they know nothing about these teams – the reality is that these countries are ahead of places like NI, Scotland and Wales these days.

    The Olympic football tournament is massive in many countries around the world, no matter if NI fans don’t know this, and don’t consider it to be important. I’d put your attitude down to the usual mix of ignorance and arrogance of British fans of anything. It’s all based on insularity, and the attitude that things are still the same as they were in the 1950s, when teams like NI, Scotland and Wales had a fair chance of beating any country in the world.

    Those days have long gone, even if British fans don’t realise it.

  • harpo

    ‘This whole thing is a mess.’

    Willowfield:

    No it isn’t.

    It’s simple.

    The UK (as hosts) has to provide teams for the 2012 Olympics.

    It’s up to the BOA to come up with a team, on whatever basis they decide. They have tried to be nice so far, asking the 4 British FAs to be involved. 2 of the FAs have shown interest, 2 want nothing to do with it.

    The BOA now has a choice:

    1. Base the teams on players from only the 2 FAs that are interested.

    2. Ignore the Scottish and Welsh FAs, and appeal straight to any players they want at time, on the assumption that they want a mixed team.

    It’s no more complicated than that.

    Say we get to 2011 and England have a decent U-21 team. It will likely provide the core of the Gb Olympic team. Add in a few NI players since the IFA has played ball all along (even if they are just token players) and approach directly any Scottish and Welsh players they want on the squad, never mind if the Scottish and Welsh FAs object.

    In any dispute about individual players, FIFA will back the BOA since FIFA has already said it’s up to the BOA to come up with a team. If controversy erupts about individual Scottish and Welsh players being approached, the only people who will look stupid will be the Scottish and Welsh FAs if they act as begrudgers.

    You see – it’s not that complicated.

    As for stadia – the IFA already has an understanding with the BOA that the Maze stadium will get matches. This will be cemented if the IFA is prepared to play ball with respect to a combined team.

    If anyone should be concerned about stadia, it’s the Welsh FA. Cardiff was due to get a bunch of matches. If the Welsh FA doesn’t play ball, then the BOA should just tell them that it’s fine if they don’t want to take part, but that means no matches in Wales.

    The same of course applies to Scotland. No participation in the combined team equals no Olympic matches in Scottish venues.

    I’d say NI and England will have enough venues to take care of things.

  • harpo

    ‘I’m afraid you view Olympic football with that uniquely British perspective of a country which hasn’t appeared in an Olympic football tournament for decades – just because the BBC doesn’t show it live doesn’t mean that it is not important.’

    The World’s Gone Mad:

    Great post.

    The trouble with many UK football fans is that they adopt a Colonel Blimp attitude when it comes to football. Thus NI fans can’t work out why they are rated so low in the wrold rankings. It’s the old ‘we were involved in developing this game, and how is it that these foreign johnnies are ranked higher than us?’.

    I’ve found that most UK fans know little about world football apart from the major leagues. It’s an insular attitude, and it results in delusions of grandeur.

    Thus the UK fans spend more time worrying about not taking part in a combined representative team than actually achieving something.

    It’s sad.

    I’d have thought real football fans would be intrigued to see how a combined team would do. But all we hear from 2 of the British FAs and all of the British fan groups is the usual insular – ‘we aren’t going to play with them’.

    In the case of the men’s 2012 team, it’s a one off event. Get over it and enjoy taking part in it.