Unsurprisingly the BBC reports that there will probably not be future Great Britain soccer Olympic squads. As suspected, 2012 was a blip due entirely to London’s hosting the games and thus neither of the GB football teams having to compete in lead up tournaments in order to qualify. (The U.S. men, we recall, failed to.) Olympic hosting countries automatically do:
…The Football Associations of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had always been opposed to the presence of a unified GB team, fearing it might damage their independent status within football’s world governing body Fifa.
Just who exactly are these “Football Associations” about which we hear so much? Yours truly made a quick visit to the web sites of the Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish ones. It appears that ALL of their main decision-makers about the game generally are, uh, guess what? Men.
The BBC continues:
The stance of the three governing bodies remains deeply entrenched and GB coaches Stuart Pearce and Hope Powell both admitted after their teams were eliminated that it is difficult to envisage GB playing at the football tournament in Rio in 2016.
“I do not think it will happen again,” said Pearce.
“Home advantage has allowed us to have this opportunity, but when you look at international programmes and bringing nationalities together, where are we going to find the time to enter a qualification period?”
The men’s team would need to qualify through the European Under-21 championship in 2015, but the home nations will participate independently in that tournament…
We see the core problem. International football from the United Kingdom is played at the “home nations” level, so there is no Great Britain or United Kingdom teams routinely existing as such. The teams are England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
That is for both the men and for the women. Yet the dilemma is this: for women footballers the world over (and as American soccer fans know regarding their much-Gold medaled Olympic women’s team and what those medals have meant to the U.S. women’s game), the Olympics are not merely any old tournament. They are special:
…Powell’s squad of 18 brought together the best players in Great Britain and they participated in a tournament that ranks alongside the World Cup as the pinnacle of their sport…
Not just “alongside.” In terms of global prestige in the women’s game, the Olympics remain still much “bigger” than the women’s World Cup. And there is the career hurt for British women.
That there will not be another men’s GB team is not a great loss to its men. In comparison to the women’s version, the men’s Olympics are not nearly as prestigious as the men’s World Cup. For unlike the women’s, the Olympic men’s tournament is played as a “youth” tournament: it is for under 23s only, with only 3 “older” players permitted.
So men’s Brazil in the Olympics is not the Brazil we watch at a World Cup; but it is likely we will see at least some of those young Brazilians playing for Brazil in a men’s World Cup eventually. Yet since GB had not fielded any men’s Olympic football team since 1960, the extraordinary Olympics setup for Great Britain in 2012 is the only reason why 38 year old Ryan Giggs enjoyed an Olympic moment he never would have otherwise. That said at least British men do get to play in their individual nations — Giggs would play for Wales — for the top trophy in the men’s game in the men’s World Cup.
Of course Britain’s women, like its men, may look to qualify for the women’s World Cup too as members of women’s England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland. However owing to its “nations” team-base that best suits its men’s game internationally, British women are barred from the top tournament in the women’s game, the Olympics, which, unlike the men’s version, has no age ceiling, but is played by the best women’s teams in the world.
…Powell, who is also the coach of the England women’s team, wants a GB women’s side in Rio, even if the men are not there. I am sure that many of the 154,998 who turned out to watch their five matches would agree.
“I would love to see GB women in the next Olympics,” said BBC commentator Steve Wilson. “The women’s game feels part of the Olympics, part of the spirit of it. The men’s game does not need the Olympics but the women’s game does.”…
There is much chatter in media about a “legacy” of London 2012 “inspiring” a generation. However, British women footballers are evidently not part of that. For since there will be no future GB Olympic football teams, British women from all four of the United Kingdom’s “home nations” are bureaucrated out of the opportunity every four years to compete for an Olympic medal. And why? Because the politics of “the men’s” game comes first.
U.S., Canadian, French, German, Brazilian and all other Olympic women footballers are no doubt likely relieved to hear that they will never have to face a GB women’s team ever again.