Olympics show just how far British football has fallen


The Olympics have created a lot of controversy ever since professional athletes were allowed to compete in the Games. Many supporters feel they should be for amateurs only while others argue that most of them are in fact professionals since they train for their chosen sport 12 months a year. Whatever your take on this is, it was expected that teams of true professionals that entered the Olympics would be able to compete with the best in the world for various reasons.

But when it comes to performances between many of the amateurs and the professionals who represented the British men’s football team in these Games, there are many questions that need to be asked. It looks like the amateurs who have excelled at their sports have done so by sacrificing themselves to be among the best in the world and to be able to compete against their peers, without much in return financially. Many of these athletes have shown true sportsmanship and dedication toward their sport, not to mention the skill required. They actually represent the true spirit in which the Olympics and sports in general should consist of.

When it comes to the footballers though, we see a large gap in the skill level even though these professional athletes have the best training facilities and coaching available to them 24 hours a day. They’re also being paid ridiculous amounts of money, but for some, they want even more before they’ll dedicate and commit themselves to their clubs. If they don’t get it, we see pro footballers threatening to go on strike, such as Tottenham’s Luka Modric, or refusing to sign new contracts with the clubs that made them stars and turned them into millionaires in the first place, with Arsenal’s Robin van Persie being an example.

Football players should be ashamed when they see some of these athletes on low fixed-incomes being able to compete with the best in the world and in many cases proving that they are actually the best at their sport by earning gold medals. While Britain can hold its own in sports such as boxing, cycling, athletics, triathlon, rowing, judo, gymnastics, equestrian, swimming, tennis, and shooting etc, the nation collectively as Great Britain, or as the separate teams of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, just doesn’t seem to be able to cut it when it comes to football.

This is hugely disappointing considering that football is the national sport and in general gets more support and money invested into it than most of the other sports combined. England couldn’t make it past the knockout stages of Euro 2012 this summer and Britain followed in their footsteps in the Olympics. Not surprisingly, both losses came in penalty shootouts since it seemed the players and coaches had no desire or the skill required to try to win the games in 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time.

Amateur athletes do receive funding from a combination of the government and private enterprises and most of them make the most of it even though the money is shared among various sports. In addition, some of this money is spent on necessary equipment and coaching facilities, leaving the athletes a bit less to live on. However, the English FA have recently said it’ll be pumping £200 million alone into football at the grass roots level. The other sports can only dream of this type of investment.

As of Aug. 5, Britain was third best in the Olympic medal count with 34 of them, consisting of 16 golds along with nine each of silver and bronze. There will likely be several more to come before the Games are over too. But the football team, which consists of professionals that have had the luxury of being able to access the top coaching systems in the world for their Premier League clubs and at the national level, was more or less nothing more than mediocre.

We’ll lay off of the British women’s team for the time being, but the men showed yet again that they just don’t have the basic skills required to play world-class football, including dribbling past opponents and passing. And to make matters worse, some members of the press hail them as “heroes” or “unlucky” while the players delude themselves into believing their performances were acceptable.

Another shameful aspect of the football team is that these are players who have been involved in the sport ever since they could walk while some of the Olympians have only taken up their sports in the past five years or so. Football is concerned about making money and it appears developing players doesn’t come into the equation. This is why most teams simply buy players instead of investing years of hard work into them. They’re obviously overpaid, but that might not be any fault of their own.

The FA and similar organizations only pump more money into grassroots football when it’s obvious the nation can’t compete. The worse the teams perform the more money the sport receives as a knee-jerk reaction. Perhaps it’s time the amateur Olympic organizations took over the football program. There’s no question that there are many dedicated football players that possess the skills needed to succeed. But there are also just as many or more who are overpaid, underachieving prima donnas. And when national teams are put together in Britain, unfortunately this is usually what we see on the pitch.

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From Peterborough, just about 60 minutes from Arsenal's ground. I remember going to Highbury when growing up and after my Uncle's stepson Mark Heeley joined the Gunners from Peterborough when he was just 17 back in the 1970s. Currently cover sports (mainly football, boxing, and ice hockey) for various sites and magazines. Still see most of the games when in Canada. In fact, they get more EPL matches there than in Britain.