Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Team GB anyone? No Thanks, it's Team NI for me.

The proposed single GB football team competing at the 2012 Olympics has caused some controversy amongst football supporters. Richard Cathcart discusses the drawbacks. 

Hands up who can name the current Olympic Football Champions?

Hands up who can tell us where the British Olympic Football team finished in Beijing?

No? Not sure? Well, you've got an excuse, since the first question was tricky (it's Argentina in the Mens Competition and Brazil in the Womens, by the way) and the second was a trick question. Britain didn't enter either the Mens or Womens tournament in Beijing. Indeed, there has been no British entry of any kind since 1972, coinciding with the ending of the old Amateur/professional distinction by the (English) FA.

So why is the subject of "Team GB" [sic] being raised now? Well you've probably heard that the next Olympics are going to be held in London in 2012 - it was in all the papers, after all.

And the powers that be have decreed that we cannot host an event and not participate fully, so there has to be a "home" team in the football. Which is where the fun starts. For although the hosts are to be the British Olympic Commission, there is no "British" football team handy to represent us.

No problem, then, we'll just get someone like Sir Alex Ferguson to pick one from the best young British players, despite his expressing absolutley no interest whatever, and Robert's your father's brother.


As well as 8 or 9 doughty young Englishmen, such a team might be expected to include a couple or more Jocks and Taffs, maybe even a Bogtrotter from across the water...

Which is where the trouble arises. For you see, the people who actually run the game in Scotland, Wales and NI aren't too keen on such an idea. In fact, they're spitting feathers. You see, for over a century and a quarter, the SFA, FAW and IFA have been quite happily running international football teams of their own, happily facing down Johnny Foreigner, if ever he should get above himself and protest that seeing as we're only one country, we should have only one international football team.

For you see, he ignores the fact that we only invented the bloody game in the first place, then taught him how to play it. Moreover, having got him out of a fix in 1945 (Second World War. You must remember that. It was in the papers and the newsreels), we had to get his footballers out of a financial fix in 1947, by playing a "Rest of Europe XI" at Hampden in front of 130,000 paying fans, and shoving all the proceeds to FIFA, to prevent them all from going bankrupt.

Anyhow, in return for baling out said Mr. Foreigner, we got him to sign a little chit saying that the Scots, Welsh and Irish would never be forced to have to bunk up with the English, to each parties considerable relief. Which all seems entirely fair enough to me, although with hindsight, perhaps beating their lot 6-1 was rubbing it in a bit much...

Anyhow, there you have it. Until lo and behold, Johnny Foreigner only went and offered us the privilege, nay honour, of spunking nine billion of our hard earned Great British Pounds on holding the next big party for them at our place. Thanks a bunch!

And having fallen for that one, we then went one better and allowed him to determine what party games we should arrange for him. And naturally, he only wants to see a bit of the old footy, to include a British team into the bargain. (I wouldn't be surprised if he is secretly hoping to exact a spot of revenge for that drubbing back in '47).

Next thing you know, our politicians only lift their snouts from the trough for a moment to do his dirty work for him and snort: "No problem, we'll have a British team for you, before you can say '1966!'"

Which, a "British" [sic] team having been established, only leaves it open to Johnny Foreigner to forget the debt he owes to us all, tear up the old chit, and tell us that if we are one football team for the Olympics, then we can jolly well be one football team for every other football competition, as well.

This, of course, produced howls of derision from Glasgow, Cardiff and even Belfast, but no-one in London was of a mind to listen, and the FA in Soho Square has been firmly bought off with visions of gate receipts and Knighthoods etc. (Well, they've got to fill Wembley somehow, don't they? Otherwise they might have to go back to the Government for some more readies for the upkeep of it, not long after they went begging to them for hundreds of millions to build the bloody thing in the first place...)

Of course, old Septic Blather at FIFA has been his usual helpful self in all this. First he said: "No problem, an Olympic team drawn from all over Britain will not affect the independence of the four home countries". Then he said: "Hang on a minute, if you have a team, it must only include English players. Otherwise the four home countries will be threatened". Then he said, without even the merest hint of a blush: "A British team? No problem, it will not affect bla, bal, bla, bla. Now where did I put that brown envelope I was carrying just a minute ago?"

So there you have it. Of course, there's a bit more to it than that. For anyone who is still interested, they might refer to www.noteamgb.com - it has some more detail.

Anyhow, I personally can't wait to see "Our Boys" in a tournament we're sure to win, at a canter. And so what if the team name - the catchy "Team GB" - doesn't even recognise that the UK is actually made up of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; there isn't likely to be anyone from our wee country in the line-up, anyhow. And if we are risking the end of over a hundred years of proud independance by having anything to do with this venture, I am sure that is a price worth paying for the privilege of lining up against the best U-23 internationals the likes of Honduras and the Ivory Coast can produce.
"Bring it On!", as I believe the young people of today popularly have it.

Better still, we might even persuade old Blatter to revisit one of his more progressive ideas and require the competitors in the Womens Football Tournament to play in revealing, figure-hugging costumes, a bit like those Beach Volleyball Bunnies. Moreover, for the Olympic Womens Football, there is no age limit, so we are promised a bit of what I believe is known as "Milf Action" (whatever that is).

Of course, we'll probably have to make do with only watching foreign lovelies rolling around in the mud in their skimpies, since there isn't likely to be any "Team GB" for the ladies in 2012. This is because it seems that the top womens (senior) teams from each continent go through to the Womens Olympic Football tournament, and despite the England Ladies qualifying by virtue of being ranked third in UEFA (following their excellent performance in the 2007 Womens World Cup), they weren't allowed to go to Beijing in 2008. You see, it seems the other three Home Nations refused to give their consent...

In the words of that immortal Welsh Philosopher, Sgt. Major Windsor Davies: "Oh Dear. How Sad. Never Mind"

For more details of the No To Team GB campaign check their website here