Team GB or no Team GB? That is the question!

Upon our esteemed Great British shores, one of the major passions as an island, not a country, but as an island, is football. The game was invented within this very island; we gave birth to a game that is now loved and watched by the whole world, but we still cannot help ourselves to childishly squabble over putting together a “hybrid team” to compete at the 2012 Olympics. So why is this?

If you ask an Englishman, they will say that they want a Team GB side, because apart from the Olympics, we never as an island unit compete in any sports together, which we should, as the Great Britain Olympic Team unites three countries that on the face, of it, do not really like each other.

If you ask a Scotsman, a Welshman, or a Northern Irishman, the reply you’ll receive shall be that they want to keep their independence as a football side and as a country, and that there would be no point in a Team GB, because the majority of the players would be English. I am going to put it out there that I want a Team GB Football side to compete at the Olympics, and I am going to explain why.

Let me take the independence issue as a starting point. We have, in Rugby, a British Lions side. That hasn’t affected the independence of the Welsh, English, Scottish or Irish has it? So why would the football side affect it?

Put simply, it wouldn’t. Nobody in the world, as in the Rest of the World, is small minded enough to think that if we have a united Great Britain football side, that the Welsh, Scottish, English or Northern Irish side become null and void. These teams have their own image and are perceived differently compared to each other in the Rest of the World. So why do people still think that it would?

The Welsh and Scottish ancestors fought for thousands of years to gain independence from England. In this modern era, they do not let the English forget that. When the nations collide in sport, internationally at least, there is always a terrific atmosphere and it makes for a terrific spectacle.

There is nothing I would love more than to go to a pub, or even go to the game itself and celebrate an Aaron Ramsey thunderbolt, after superb play from Barry Bannan and Jack Wilshere. I’d love to experience that with my Welsh mates, and with my Scottish mates, and the “banter” would be excellent.

One of the most common reasons for not wanting a Team GB football side is that the most of the players chosen would be English.

In the past, this has been the case, and that is an undeniable fact. One of the reasons why Team GB disbanded, after having played their last match in 1971, was because most of the players were English. In 1972, there was a change of rules within the Olympics, which meant that the football tournament within the Olympics was essentially an Under 23 tournament.

Therefore, to qualify for the Olympic football tournament, you had to qualify for the Under 21 European Championships, which doubled up as the qualifying (for European teams) for the Olympics. Because England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all enter a team for the Under 21 qualifiers, we cannot combine if one of us qualifies. However, because Great Britain is the host nation, we do not have to qualify, and can enter a team.

So would we pick only English players this time around? I would say no.

It is an Under-23 tournament, and Wales and Scotland have some terrific young players. Look at Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Barry Bannan and David Goodwillie. Four players who are playing regular Premier League football, and all have the potential to be “superstars”. They aren’t English.

Couple that with the fact that one month prior to the Olympic Games, England shall be competing in the European Championships, and therefore most of the English players will not be picked due to club commitments and needing a rest, those four are debatably the first on the team sheet. Those players are of outstanding quality, and part of me wishes they played for England.

Taking all this into consideration, and thinking of the young players England has at its disposal in the Under 23 category, Stuart Pearce could create a team that is capable of winning a gold medal, and not only that, but for some of these players, including the English, that may well be the only international medal they will ever be able to collect in their footballing lives.

So where are we now? Well, there will be a football side representing Team Great Britain at this summer’s Olympics. There have been conflicting statements from all four parties; the English FA, the FAW, the SFA and the Northern Irish FA, with the overall comment being that the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish FAs are against the proposal, but will not stand in the way of any players wishing to represent Britain.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have both said they want to play, but have been slated for posing in the official kit. Hopefully, they will not receive too much abuse for doing so, as everybody will miss out if those two players are not part of the squad. The fixtures have been released, and both the Men and Women’s teams will be playing in Cardiff and Wembley, and if they progress into the next round, they will also play at Hampden Park.

The British Olympic Authority and Stuart Pearce, the manager of Team GB football, have nearly overcome the opposition from the respective authorities. The next one will be monumental and the most challenging. – the fans.

Everyone is unanimous in saying that Football could learn a lot of lessons from Rugby, and I hope that this is one.