Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Team Great Britain at 2012 Olympics? Scotland, Wales Cry Foul over 'Historic Deal.'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Team Great Britain at 2012 Olympics? Scotland, Wales Cry Foul over 'Historic Deal.'

Article excerpt

The British Olympic Association plans to field soccer teams at the 2012 Olympic Games, but the national football associations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland don't want any part of it.

As Britain prepares to host the 2012 Olympic Games, a row has broken out over the composition of the national team for the country's most popular sport: soccer.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) announced last week it had completed a "historic deal" with the English Football Association to field both men's and women's soccer teams under the "Team Great Britain" banner. Intended to improve attendance at the games - soccer is not much noticed at the Olympics - the move may turn out instead to be an "own goal" at the London games.

At least one national sporting hero has signed up to play. Los Angeles Galaxy star and former Manchester United player David Beckham told the BBC he was on-side for the move: "I'm an East End lad and being English born and bred, it would be something I'd be very honored to be part of."

Note Mr. Beckham said English, not British - and therein lies the problem.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic as "Becks," and in a blow to unity ahead of the games, the national football associations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have said they want no part of it.

Patrick West, author of the book "Beating Them At Their Own Game: How The Irish Conquered English Soccer," says the real issue isn't the Olympics, but setting a precedent that could wipe out the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish national teams.

"The UK is a quasi-federal state in which England is the biggest country and the other countries in the UK are scared of losing their Fifa [the international governing body of soccer] status," he says.

As far as the Olympics are concerned, Britain is a single nation. As a result there hasn't been a British Olympic soccer squad for 52 years. Britain last won a gold medal in the 1912 Games. The decision to revive the single British Olympic soccer team looks final, but some are worried the Games, especially those held outside London, will go largely unwatched as fans outside England turn away in support of their national squads. …

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