FA Cup Final/GB Team – London Olympics 2012

From the moment Luis Saha scored the quickest ever goal in an FA Cup Final you sort of knew it wouldn’t be enough. It was always asking a lot for two of our bitterest rivals to lose out in two big finals in four days.
It has to be said that Guus Hiddink has worked his magic yet again in his brief spell at Stamford Bridge. His work probably deserves the winners’ medals handed out at Wembley yesterday afternoon. A pity though. A very big pity. Still, whatever you say about Chelsea, they’ve got some very good players. They’ve also looked on the same page tactically since Hiddink took over from Luiz Scolari.
The other football story in the news over the past couple of days is that the FA seems to have brokered a deal with the Scottish Football Association, Football Association of Wales and the Irish Football Association that will see Great Britain teams enter both the men’s and women’s football tournaments in the London Olympics in 2012. Essentially the SFA, FAW and IFA will “look the other way” as long as the FA only picks English players for the “British” squads.
Overwhelmingly, of those fans who actually care, probably a minority, many fans – especially of the bigger clubs –  don’t give a monkey’s about national team football,  sentiment is against a GB team, at least as far as the men’s tournament goes. The reason for opposition usually given is that entering a GB team in the Olympics would open to door for FIFA to insist that the existing four separate national teams are abolished.
I’ve always thought and continue to think that this is nonsense. There is an argument advanced by some within FIFA that the four home associations should lose their privileged position in making and amending the laws of the game. Each of the four Home Nations has one vote on the law-making International Football Association Board (IFAB) with FIFA having four votes. In order to amend the laws a three-quarters majority is needed so two out of the four home nations have to vote in favour of any change proposed by FIFA ,representing the other 204 national associations for it to pass. True, the four home associations can’t change the laws without FIFA voting in favour either, but this is still an anomaly that’s hard to defend in the first decade of the 21st century.
I have never detected any desire by the other footballing nations to force a shot-gun marriage of the UK’s four national teams. I think the real reason for the widespread opposition is that most “Britons” increasingly identify as Welsh, English, Scottish and so on. I won’t go into the various “identities” present in Northern Ireland (that’s a whole other story!) but suffice to say that followers of the Northern Ireland national team are equally voiciferious in their opposition to a GB team in the Olympics.
There is a far better argument to be had about whether football should have a place in the Olympics at all. The International Olympic Committee has booted out baseball from the Olympics from the 2012 games as Major League Baseball in the USA/Canada refuses to release its players for the Olympics as the Summer Games fall in the middle of the North American baseball season. The NBA and NHL happily releases its best players for the Olympic basketball and ice hockey tournaments.
Given that the Olympic men’s football tournament is effectively an under 23 competition the Games don’t see the very best players (although Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano played for Argentina in it gold medal winning team in Beijing last year). My personal feeling is that their should be a GB team in the men’s football competition as long as there is a football tournament and that it should comprise the best under 23 players from the four home nations. I say that as somebody who’s proud of being Welsh but also has no problem identifying as British too. The latter is, I recognise, increasingly uncommon. I also recognise that my views on a GB men’s football team (in the Olympics only mind) is in a substantial minority. The Football Supporters’ Federation is accurately reflecting the views of most fans in both England and Wales in joining with fans of Scotland and Northern Ireland in opposing “Team GB”. I don’t imagine that too many Gooners care too much one way or the other however.
Well, the domestic season is now wrapped up. Only World Cup qualifiers left now until football goes into its increasingly brief summer slumber. Only eighteen days until next season’s fixtures are published!
Keep the faith!

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