A lot of ink has been spilt on this subject so I will keep it brief. Next year London hosts the Olympics, the largest sporting event to have been held on these shores since the World Cup in ’66. Events of this magnitude do not come around very often and that has led many, including myself, to call for the one-off participation of a football team made-up of players from across the UK.
I certainly understand that this is not simply a case of ‘pick a team and away we go’. There are associations within FIFA who may well be keen to challenge the ongoing independent status of the 4 home nations; particularly within CONCACAF. However, in his most recent comments on the subject Sepp Blatter has suggested that one-off participation would NOT jeapordise our independent status as a national association. But let’s explore that avenue first before writing the idea off because of fear.
It’s also worth noting that there is absolutely no will whatsoever within any of the home nations to see a permanent UK team that would compete in the European Championships or the World Cup. Supporters of the ‘Team GB’ concept are not anti-Wales. I would always support the Welsh national team first, but the Olympics are different. Athletes in hundreds of different fields competing under the British banner… I’m sure Colin Jackson didn’t feel any less Welsh simply because he also proudly competed as a Brit.
If anything, as the Six Nations proves, competition amongst the home nations (and France & Italy) is as fierce and competitive as any in the world. We all look forward to the England game each year with particular relish… Having an occasional touring British Lions side hasn’t undermined that. Don’t make the mistaken assumption that there is a hidden agenda behind every advocate of Football Team GB. In fact, many of its proponents are the most vociferous champions of a return to a Bi-Annual football ‘Home Nations’ format that would include our old enemy England.
The case is also made that no one cares about Olympic football. This is a bit of a cheap shot if you think about it. I’m not saying for a second that Olympic football is anywhere approaching as important as the World Cup, or even the European Championships… That would be nonsense. However, surely our interest as Brits has been fatally undermined until now by our own perennial non-participation?
Ask the Argentinians if they took it seriously last time around, with Messi, Mascherano and Riquelme all in the gold-winning squad. Or Brazil, whose team included Ronaldinho, Anderson and Pato.
Do you really think that British people wouldn’t be able to get excited by a team that might include exciting young stars from across the UK, like Ramsey, Bale and Wilshire? And what great experience for young players to play on the world stage at an event of this magnitude. (Certainly Gareth Bale has declared his interest, and i'm pretty confident that he’s not alone.) This would surely be of huge benefit to the Welsh national side…
The cameras of the world’s media are going to be turned on us next year. A unique occasion, where we get to host the party for once. I find the thought of a British football team exceptionally exciting and it is disappointing to find that the idea is being resisted on the grounds of fear and fear alone. We are right to be proud of our history as an independent football nation, and to be excited about the future given the depth of young emerging talent in the squad. But can we not just look into the idea with a bit of calm and dignity, instead of getting carried away by isolationist paranoia?