Olympic Games

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Olympic Games

Postby Snuff » Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:24 am

I SEE the Olympic Games football tournament has again reared its ugly head, after we were assured, entering Team GB in London would be a one-off.

I always suspected, once the FA blazers were exposed to the excesses of the IOC's four-yearly beanfeast, they would want to enjoy further exposure, and, lo, thus it transpires.

I have said before - frequently - the fact the FA can more-or-less do what they like as regards Olympic football is entirely the fault of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh FAs, who were only too-happy to let the FA run things back in the amateur days.

The Scottish end, back then, was run by the Scottish Amateur FA/Queen's Park committee, who did tend to put the Spiders' interests first. An old friend of mine, who played for Queen's Park, the Scotland Amateur team and the GB Olympic team, told me of being pulled-out of a GB Olympic Games qualifying squad, to go and play for Queen's in a league game at Forfar. That sort of self-interest doesn't go down too-well in Olympic circles.

IF, and I don't believe for one minute UEFA - which has allowed the likes of San Marino, Andorra and Gibraltar to play in its competitions - would allow rumblings from Africa and the Caribbean to see Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to be sacrificed for one UKFA. I therefore don't think a Team GB football team would threaten our international independence.

However, a Team GB football set-up, run by and for the benefit of the (English) FA has to be fought against.

The three Celtic FAs should get together and approach the British Olympic Association to have the English monopoly on football representation ended. If curling, which is played almost exclusively in Scotland, can form a UK Curling Association to handle the Olympics participation, then surely we can set-up a UK Football Fededration to run the Olympic football participation.

Going to an Olympics would surely benefit our young players. The Olympic team is basically an Under-23 one, an ideal bridge between the Under-21 and senior teams. Even selecting Team GB could involve a four-nations tournament to sort-out the best youngsters, and, you will never convince me England has all the good young players.
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Re: Olympic Games

Postby Scottish » Thu Mar 05, 2015 12:15 pm

Excellent analysis and an eminently sensible solution, though whether the myopic authorities will take it up is doubtful in the extreme. The 'Celtic' FAs had a great opportunity in the run-up to the last Olympics but spurned it out of a nonsensical fear over their FIFA status, allowing the FA to (to use an analogy from another sport) run with the ball. Co-operation in 2012 would have laid firm foundations for 2016. Not only letting but actively ENCOURAGING the FA to take sole charge was real ostrich stuff.

I've always considered the idea of a Team GB Olympic football side as any threat to the home nations UEFA & FIFA status as utterly bogus. What do non-European countries have to gain from such a move? At worst, three votes among 200+ members, and as you rightly point out, UEFA is plenty capable of admitting members from elsewhere. UEFA have already lost enough World Cup qualifying places to give up another so there's no argument there either. IFAB and the FIFA vice-presidency are the only real big prizes available and even then a reduction from four to one doesn't in itself mean the end of these. I will say though that these are totally anachronistic and they SHOULD be given up, though the home nations would want something in return. World Cup in England instead of Qatar anyone?

UEFA on the other hand have a lot to lose. For the last set of qualifiers (2012) England were best supported with an average of 77,071. Scotland were fourth (behind France and Germany) with 43,475 and Wales were 16th with 25,883. That Welsh figure can be doubled if they do well in the qualifiers. Windsor Park's capacity these days means it isn't really worthwhile to count Northern Ireland (34th) as all that important when it comes to crowds.

That's not including travelling support (also amongst the highest in Europe for all four home nations) or for fans travelling to the finals themselves (though admittedly the last time any of the Celtic countries qualified for a major tournament it was hotel switchboards which were overloaded, not accommodation websites).

That's a lot of cash at stake. No UEFA country would want to give up their slice of the action, nor would the federation itself. In any case, expulsion from FIFA is well-nigh impossible, other than for governmental interference in the game. Gibraltar (though not yet a full FIFA member) offers an interesting example. They first applied for UEFA membership in 1999, then again in 2007 when only England, Scotland and Wales backed them (why NI didn't, I have no idea. It would appear to have been very much in their interest to do so). Eventually Gibraltar went to the CAS and won their case in 2011. UEFA admitted them in 2013. This time only Spain and Belarus voted against - the first being obvious, the second a real head-scratcher. Spain initially threatened to withdraw from all UEFA competitions if Gibraltar was granted membership. An empty threat if ever there was one. Barcelona and Real Madrid were never going to take to the barricades and the idea that the reigning World and European champions would refuse to defend their titles was farcical in the extreme.

If a new applicant like Gibraltar can win a case at the CAS, it would be utter folly for anyone to suggest expelling UEFA inaugural members and FIFA members of almost 70 years continuous membership when the same option of going to the CAS is available to them. Especially as, no matter the likes and dislikes of individual associations or the tendency of the home nations to vote as a bloc (a la Eurovision Song Contest), there is no hostility towards any of them anything approaching the lines of Spain-Gibraltar, Cyprus-Northern (Turkish) Cyprus or a host of nations to Kosovo.

That's on top of the fact that it is in absolutely no one's interest to do so in the first place.

The SFA, IFA and FAW were well aware of all this in the run-up to 2012 but, fearful of fan reaction to a non-existent threat, reacted hysterically. In the end Welsh and Scottish players took part in the men's and women's teams.

I have just looked outside my window and can confirm that the sky hasn't fallen in.

Other countries - and players - take the Olympics seriously. Javier Mascherano to the extent that he was won two golds. Leo Messi was involved in a big club or country dispute prior to the Beijing games in 2008 with the player adamant he would go to China. The dispute was resolved, Messi travelled, and returned to Barcelona with a gold medal to be declared at customs.

These are just some of the players who have won gold, silver or bronze since the Olympics dropped "shamateurism" in 1984:
Alexei Mikhailichenko, Claudio Taffarel, Thomas Häßler. Karlheinze Riedle, Albert Ferrer, Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique, Jay-Jay Okocha, Hernán Crespo, Diego Simeone, Ronaldo the original, Samuel Eto’o, Carlos Kameni, Joan Capdevila, Xavi, Carles Puyol, Gabriel Heinze, Javier Mascherano (two golds), Kily González, Carlos Tévez, Giorgio Chellini, Andrea Pirlo, Alberto Gilardino, Daniele De Rossi, Pablo Zabaleta, Juan Román Riquelme, Ángel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Ronaldinho, Thiago Silva, Neymar.

Some of the greatest players of the past three decades are in that list and these are only the medallists. There are many more fine footballers whose careers have been enhanced by playing at the Olympic Games. Like you, I refuse to accept that only young English players are capable of performing at this level and even if a UK side were to fail to qualify, it would provide players with great experience in the rigours of a qualifying tournament and an opportunity to come up against the best young players in Europe (the world if successful in qualifying) in addition to UEFA's own tournaments.
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Re: Olympic Games

Postby Skyline Drifter » Thu Mar 05, 2015 1:32 pm

Excellent post David. I agree with every word of that.
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Re: Olympic Games

Postby Scottish » Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:49 pm

Thanks very much for that. Coming from someone who doesn't usually hand out bouquets indiscriminately, I'll regard that as high praise indeed.
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