This team divides rather than unites the United Kingdom
Yesterday in England, at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, the host country played a friendly pre-Olympic football match against the Brazilian. I am not here to debate whether football has the right to be an Olympic sport, what I want to talk about is of a particular fact about the home team.
This game will be remembered by most of Smoggies because the team that played there was nothing less than the Seleção. Moreover, this tie was not just a normal game of preparation between two nations, was something almost historic. The friendly match has not been England vs. the Seleção but the United Kingdom vs. Brazil.
A football team of the United Kingdom? Yes, in London 2012 there will be a football Team GB and the fact is, from a sport point of view, a rare event because the last time that football Team GB played was forty years ago.
This nation is “particular” from the sport point of view. In most international competitions there is a British team while in other sports, like cricket, rugby and football, there are squad that represents every state in the Union. For these young Brazilian could have been perhaps the first and last time that they played against the British because for the rest of their careers they will face the English Three Lions, the Scottish, the Welsh Dragons of the Norn Iron, the Northern Ireland football team.
Why this difference? It’s all based on the history and evolution of this sport. The modern football was born in this land in the nineteenth century. In 1863 was founded by some English clubs in the FA – Football Association. This was a experimental FA and it was unclear if he wanted to incorporate teams from other states of the Union. Ten years after the Scottish teams created the Scottish FA and Welsh and Irish followed their example years later (the Irish FA will split into two in 1921 because of the birth of the Republic of Ireland).
The FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), was born in 1904 and because the UK has been divided into four federations for decades they opted to register the four independent organizations rather then ask to create a UK football federation. This particular situation is the reason behind the football discussion of the first half of 2012: does the UK need to have a national football team for London 2012? It was a sport and political debate that involved the central government, the executives of the other states of the Union, the media, the four FAs and the BOA – British Olympic Association. For the parliament, the BOA and the English FA was impossible not to have a football Team GB for the Olympics in London but the other federations, especially the Scottish, rejected the idea because they want to stay independent and the fear that FIFA may seriously think to ask to Britain to have a UK team for all football tournaments. After months of controversy, fights and discussion the Scottish Football Association has decided to step aside and said that Scottish players will not be restricted from representing the Great Britain Olympic football team.
The players were selected and, ironically, there are Scottish, not even among the technical staff. Just a coincidence or an English revenge? Hard to tell, but it is clear that this selection is simply a Three Lions team with some modification considering the fact that fifteen of the total eighteen athletes are English.
Next week the team will start the tournament and will try to achieve Olympic glory. The fans will fill the stadiums with thousands of Union Jacks, they will support the lads with a the typical British passion. However I’m sure that in the Highlands they will not celebrate the victory of the fake football Team GB.
Published on the website of the Italian newspaper “Il Fatto Quotidiano” on Saturday the 21st of July 2012 under the title “Londra 2012, la nazionale Gb divide invece di unire“