… When it comes to the Olympics!
At the London 2012 Olympics, Britain will not be able to field a football team that is truly representative of Britain, as the team will have to be made up of Englishmen alone. Why? The BBC notes that
“Other home nations do not want to be involved as they are fearful of threats to their individual status within Fifa.”
So they are more content to remain independent than be a member of a united British entity. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?
“But [the FA General Secretary] was hopeful that the governing bodies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will soften their stance on the squad being made up exclusively of English players.”
I would suggest that this is unlikely at best. In a statement released today– fittingly enough, to the BBC – the FAW stressed the fact that
“… the Football Association of Wales maintains Welsh players will not be allowed to play for Great Britain.
“Our position on this has not changed and is unlikely to change,” said FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford.
“There is no drive for us to change our position.””
Perhaps in light of a coming referendum on increased Welsh devolution, this is a telling sign of the times. Not just for Wales.
The connection of sport (and football in particular) to concepts of nationhood is certainly not a new one, particularly in the case of England. Ever since Crosses of St. George began replacing Union Jacks at Italia ’90, and in other sports before that, the position has been one of reductio ad absurdum. Many people, ranging from commentators to English nationalists, note or bemoan the fact that England is a ’90-minute nation’; one whose identity can only be expressed in a distinct and meaningful way through sport. So how are we to read this latest setback for the ‘nation’ of Britain- one that cannot even muster sufficient unity to field a football team for a tournament of little footballing importance, at the most important sporting event in London’s recent history? It is telling.
On the bright side, it is perhaps fitting that the nation that founded the formal rules of the sport that it has given to the rest of the world – possibly the greatest cultural export this country has ever produced – will in some way shape or form be represented at the world’s foremost sporting tournament, albeit under the antequated mask of ‘Britain’.
Perhaps one day we will see an English Olympic team for the first time. Until then, as in the realm of politics, we shall have to make do with watching Englishmen carry the hopes of the nation of Britain on their shoulders, and its banners on their chests.