Is the Team GB football team part of the Olympic legacy or just flash in the pan? A Welshman speaks out...
It’s that time of the week again when one of us ramble incessantly about anything under the sun. With the Olympic games coming to a close this weekend with the culmination of the football tournament, we thought that might be worth a mention.
Full disclosure here: Roker Report HQ thought this may have been a good idea seeing as I’m Welsh, and how my views may differ from any of our other great writers.
With that in mind, lets see what the future holds for Team GB...
Olympic euphoria has gripped our Isles; talk of a legacy is being ping-ponged back and forth between those genuinely supportive of the Games, and writers of nauseating satirical pieces in The Guardian. And Team GB football has played a part in all of this. Initially GB went against the grain; topping a tricky group before the all-too-inevitable exit via a penalty shootout. That may be me looking at Stuart Pearce’s charges as England in sheep’s clothing, but all is fair after you called Joe Allen English.
The loss of a Great Britain side is something currently bemoaned in the sport of rugby league, but from a Welsh perspective, a British Olympic football team holds far more merit because of the age-grade restrictions and its infrequency. Immediate friction between the Home Nations ensured that Team GB would ultimately consist of just two countries. Should a decision be made to retain an Olympic football team should Scotland and Northern Ireland’s viewpoint cease? Qualification for future Games is just as tricky; would Team GB have a four-pronged qualification attempt? Again, choosing just one to pin its hopes on at Under 21 level would polarise the other three, and that is before you begin selecting people ahead of those who got you there.
In the disbanding of GB in rugby league, Wales’ players have blossomed – similarly to how they had in international football under Gary Speed. As a result, however a fair proportion of this must go to Brendan Rodgers’ hyperbole also, Welsh players were an attractive proposition when Pearce sat down to select his squad. It remains to be seen whether this international purple-patch can be maintained despite Speed’s tragic loss, but given the gentle slope Wales are climbing, it is fair to say that being viewed at positively, even by England, makes a refreshing change.
England, okay the Premier League, has announced reform in how it plans to develop young players in the future; specifically targeting the U18 and U21 age-grades. It has the possibility, again, if everyone can get along, to extend that process once every four years. Many may feel it is too sporadic; the FAW or SFA could see it as a hindrance to their young players rather than a help, there just seems to be way more questions than answers which, is a shame when you see just how useful it is to other footballing nations.
Personally, I think the Team GB concept has legs – certainly enough to get it to Rio de Janeiro for 2016. The fact that it is so sporadic makes it more attractive; each nation can focus on itself for four years, at senior level, pathway levels, on every level, and then (here’s the tricky bit) come together and knock up a side that can hopefully compete. The even harder task is extending the Olympic ideology to people who at 21 or 22 may already be millionaires, but that isn’t their fault. As Iain Macintosh said earlier this month, part of it is actually OUR fault, so surely we can give the footballers the ‘you let no-one down’ token of comfort, too?
As the Olympics starts to pack up its wagons and circle out of town, the true legacy of London 2012 will be left in its wake. Over two-dozen Gold medals will be a shot in the arm to sports that can only dream of having football's backing - both financially and emotionally. It would take a brave man to turn his back on that.