Written by Seng Ton
Team GB’s Olympic football team
It’s been about 30 years since our last attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games as a united football team. And as the games will be hosted in London this summer, the (English) FA has decided to assemble a team together. As the host nation, it means we won’t have to go through a qualification phase, so that has taken off some pressure. The last time we actually qualified for the games was in 1960, with Norman Creek in charge, although he only managed to get to the first round of the tournament proper.
Bit of History about Team GB’s participation in Olympic Games
So our best successes in this tournament were long before many of us were born, the 1900, 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games saw the Great Britain football team take away the gold medal. Although the amount of matches played back then were considerably different to the present day. For example, in the 1900 Olympic Games only three nations competed, and after the games were played all participating nations were awarded their medals as accordingly. France and Belgium were the other two nations that came away with the silver and bronze medals respectfully. (Those times when at school and you got a prize just for participating, it kind of feels like that). Eight years later there was a larger following in that eight nations took part. Twelve years later that rose to eleven nations and if you compare that to 2012, where sixteen nations will compete for the gold medal. It is clear to see that more nations take it more seriously now.
It’s more like Team England and Wales than Great Britain
Apart from four separate Olympic Games, The Great Britain Olympic football team was only represented by English players. There have been a few occasions where Scottish and Welsh players have been included but never Northern Irish. This year’s squad will consist of only English and Welsh players as was confirmed by head coach, Stuart Pearce. The football associations of Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland have expressed their reluctance to merge their nations together as one. Now I personally don’t see why they are throwing their toys out the pram. Other sports, including tennis and rugby union have a Great Britain team (with all participating nations) so I see no reason why football can’t be the same. I was quite excited to hear about the (English) FA considering setting up a team for the Olympics. There is a lot of bright young British talent, which are also Scottish and Northern Irish. And with no disrespect to the nations in question, playing at the Olympics as part of Team GB may be perhaps the only chance that these players will get at international redemption.
“Fear of losing their independence”, this is what the opposing football associations have to say about being part of Team GB. While I do understand this statement, I do not however agree with it. With this in mind, they do not have the power to physically prevent any of their players for participating in Team GB. But for potentially great players including but not limited to; Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Barry Bannan would probably want to test themselves against the best internationally, and this (Olympic Games) would provide a more than suitable platform in aiding their development.
“Has Beckham still got what it takes?” This is the question that most fans will when talking about our Olympic football team. He was not included in Stuart Pearce’s 18-man squad, and this was confirmed even before the full squad had been released. But is this is the right choice? Becks played a big part in bringing the games to London in the first place, as he acted so passionately as an ambassador for our bid. But the United States’ Major League Soccer is where he now plays his football (and while many more well-known players are making the move across the pond) it is still considered by many to be not as competitive or as testing as the English Premier League. And this is where many of the selected squad ply their trade. So you could probably argue that his omission was based on what level of football he has been playing, and perhaps may not be ready to keep up with the pace of the other players. Ryan Giggs still plays a frequent role in Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team and can control the midfield in the midst of a Premier League battle.
Pearce’s squad for 2012 Olympic Games
Great Britain’s Olympic football team has been officially announced, the first squad for over 30 years consists of 13 Englishmen and 5 Welshmen. All but 3 players are currently contracted at Premier League clubs. The over age players will be Manchester City’s Micah Richards, Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs and Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy. The most notable exclusions include David Beckham and Gareth Bale (due to injury) and the possible pulling out of Daniel Sturridge (viral meningitis).
Key Under 23 players (not full squad)
Jack Butland – 6 caps for England Under 21, part of England’s Euro 2012 Squad
Ryan Bertrand – 16 caps for England Under 21, played in 2012 Champions League final
James Tomkins – 10 caps for England Under 21, a key player for West Ham United’s promotion push
Tom Cleverley – 16 caps for England Under 21, outstanding form for Manchester United early on in the season
Jack Cork – 13 caps for England Under 21, key player for Southampton last season
Aaron Ramsey – 21 caps forWales, scoring 5 times, current captain of Wales
Scott Sinclair – 7 caps for England Under 21, a key playmaker in a very creative and positiveSwanseaside
Daniel Sturridge – 15 caps for England Under 21, scoring 4 times
Stuart Pearce has picked a more than capable group of players which are hungry and have experience in most levels of British football (and some who also have European experience). The Olympic Games should be a good test for these young players with this tournament acting as a positive learning curve. To add to that playing alongside experienced stars like Richards, Giggs and Bellamy can only be beneficial as they’ll have a lot of lessons to pass on. The exclusion of Beckham was in my opinion about footballing reasons, and he couldn’t do much about Bale and Sturridge.
Predicted starting XI; Butland, Richards, Caulker, Tomkins, Bertrand, Sinclair, Cleverley, Ramsey, Giggs, Bellamy, Sturridge.