Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fifa Hope for Best of British; Football Chiefs Still Confident of Olympic Team Unity

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fifa Hope for Best of British; Football Chiefs Still Confident of Olympic Team Unity

Article excerpt

FIFA remain confident the Home Nations can unite to represent Great Britain at this summer's London Olympics, writes SIMON STONE.

Stuart Pearce will learn Britain's first three Olympic opponents in today's draw at Wembley, but still does not know whether he will be able to field a team representing the whole United Kingdom.

Despite being one of the most established sports in the Games - Britain won the first two gold medals in 1908 and 1912 - it is one of the most contentious.

Many do not believe the sport has any place within the Olympic showpiece at all and that it gets far too much global exposure already.

Barcelona were vexed enough four years ago to establish whether they were obliged to release Lionel Messi to play for Argentina.

Only this weekend Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed his unease at the number of players Manchester United might lose immediately before the new Premier League season.

However, all this is a mere side issue compared to the question of whether players from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will make it into Pearce's squad.

The respective governing bodies have already accepted they have no legal means of preventing it happening, and both the Football Association and British Olympic Association, who are responsible for putting the squad together, are keen for it to happen. However, faced with the potential, however remote, of countries losing their rights as individual nations within Fifa, it remains to be seen whether Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy, Steven Fletcher and Chris Brunt, who have all made Pearce's 80-man provisional squad, accept an invitation if it is forthcoming. Fifa have repeatedly reassured the fearful associations.

Zhang Jilong, a Fifa executive committee member and current head of the Asian Football Confederation, said: "A British team will represent Great Britain in participating in the Olympic Games and combine as one team to show the quality of British football. …

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