Will Rio 2016 see a Great British football team?
The Olympics has brought success in many facets of sports so far this Summer, whilst it has also been a celebration of the Olympics almost returning home to a nation so involved in sport.
Whilst Gold medals became our triumph in most events, the achievement in our football team wasn’t in medals, but in the unity between the English and Welsh footballers to create a team that Great Britain enjoyed supporting.
It was the first time since 1960 that Team GB entered a football team to compete in the Olympics and whilst some viewers will say the performances were uninspiring and the team underachieved, others may point out that for a team that had no preparation and were missing key individuals, the players did relatively well.
With the rules of only three over-23’s allowed within the squad, it gave the younger players a chance to add more experience to their blossoming careers. Some players may not get a lot of game time in front of crowds of 60,000 adoring fans, up against fellow international players, so the Olympics gives them that opportunity, which they may look back and use later on in their lives.
The likes of Tom Cleverly, Steven Caulker and Scott Sinclair all seemed to thrive on the opportunity given to them and their performances over the Summer event may just have won them a place in their respective club sides.
The FA and other football associations insisted that the 2012 Great Britain football team would always be a one-off and under FIFA regulations, qualifying for future Olympic tournaments would have to come about through a Team GB side performing together as one in the UEFA Under-21 Championships.
It’s problems like that which make it difficult to see another Team GB side taking place. However, a deal could be put in place with FIFA meaning that if either of the home nations reaches a level of qualification, then GB could enter a team.
The Scottish Football Association and the Irish Football Association, representing Northern Ireland, already took a stand in not letting their players take part in this year’s side, despite the fact many of their players having the ability to help play a key role for Team GB.
Whilst Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge were English players deservedly selected, and Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey rightly representing the Welsh contingent, Scotland could have had the likes of Charlie Adam or Jordan Rhodes flying the flag for them, or Jonny Evans and Josh McQuoid could have stood for the Northern Irish.
The British Olympic Association always wanted to include players from all of the home nations and Team GB coach, Stuart Pearce, had contacted 191 players from all four nations asking if they were willing to represent Team GB, regardless of the stance of their respective footballing associations.
While it seems unlikely that a men’s side will be put forward for Rio, the Olympics has been a real platform for an emerging women’s game to reach people who, before now, may have never of heard of some of the stars of the game.
With the exception of the World Cup, women’s football is very seldom shown on the television, so to have every game live on the BBC meant that youngsters were able to watch the team and hopefully become inspired and with money not such a major factor in the women’s game, continuing Team GB remains a real possibility.
Again the problem with qualifying for Rio may produce the biggest stumbling block, but Team GB and England coach Hope Powell hopes to see a GB side competing in four years time.
Powell said: “If we get the opportunity again I would definitely give it the thumbs up,” and added that:”The experience has been an incredible journey.”
“I am not the decision-maker, but my answer would be, if we had the opportunity to go into the Olympics – just the women – I would take it.”
“There is nothing better than tournament experience and I think our girls will have learnt so much from being part of this.”
“Tournament football is not easy and you learn things very quickly. Then the next time you come up in a tournament you remember the things you have learnt.”
“We have missed out on those experiences, so if the opportunity to play at the Olympics arose again and we could do that, I would love Team GB to be part of that.”
Despite the opposition of the SFA and IFA, and to a point, the Football Association of Wales, the majority of the fans didn’t let it get in the way of supporting Great Britain, which was heart-warming to see and with a sense of national pride spreading across the country, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to let our youngsters have a chance to shine.