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Woodward wants GB football team at future Games

  • 21 Jul 2012
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LONDON (AFP)
Sir Clive Woodward

Sir Clive Woodward wants the Great Britain football team to compete at future Olympic Games despite internal opposition to their involvement at London 2012.

Officials in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales remain opposed to their players participating in a British team, fearing the start of a slippery slope that could lead to their extinction as independent football nations.

But Team GB men's and women's teams were in friendly action on Friday, with the men losing 2-0 to gold medal favourites Brazil and the women held to a goalless draw by Sweden.

No British men's football team has competed at an Olympics since the 1960 Games in Rome but Woodward, the coach of England the team that won rugby union's World Cup in 2003, is in no doubt about whether they should remain part of the Olympic scene.

"Personally I would love to see it," Woodward, Team GB's deputy chef de mission who had a previous role with Southampton Football Club, said Saturday.

"I thought it was a great shame in Beijing we didn't have two football teams.

"We saw (Lionel) Messi playing for Argentina and I just thought, 'We (the men's team) should be here'.

"Now I see both teams here and even more think that is the right approach, regardless of what actually happens in the tournament.

"But I hope we do really well in this tournament. I think both teams have got a good chance of going all the way. That would be great for football."

However, the men's side has no players from Scotland or Northern Ireland -- a decision manager Stuart Pearce insists was simply down to football ability -- with the 18-strong squad made up of 13 English players and five from Wales.

"Their eyes have been completely opened from coming into the Olympic village, seeing the Olympic environment and being part of a multi-sport team," British chef de mission Andy Hunt said of the football side.

"We sat there at supper and ate with these guys and I think they were completely taken aback by what they had come into.

"They were humbled, actually, by the experience and now they are massively passionate about the Olympic Games, the Olympic movement and what this is all about.

"They have come into it and really become part of the overall team. I don't think they knew quite what they were coming into."

Great Britain's footballers were included automatically for these Games due to host nation places.

But for future Olympics, they would have to get through qualification matches, which could prove administratively difficult given the four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete separately in the events used to determine places.

For example, the European Under-21 Championship doubled up as a qualification tournament for the men's event. The men's Olympic tournament is essentially an under-23 competition but with three permitted overage players.

Hunt said: "Let's get through these Games and see if we can have a good performance but, of course, we would love Team GB to compete in men's and women's football going forward.

"They have to get there on merit, of course, which is another hurdle that would be in the way, but if we take the women's game, this is massively important to them."

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