The sport has featured at The Olympic Games since it was first introduced in 1908. Great Britain won the very first Gold football medal and successfully defended the title four years later in the Stockholm games. London’s 2012 competition will take place at six venues around the U.K., including Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium in Wales and Hampden Park in Scotland, the Final will be staged at Wembley Stadium in London. The competition starts with group matches, the teams will be divided into groups of four [three in the women’s competition], with the best eight teams going through to the quarter final stage. The competition is then played on a knockout basis, the two winning semi-finalists will play at Wembley for the Gold and Silver medals, with the two losing semi-finalists competing for the Bronze position. At London 2012, the mens competition will be an under 23’s event, although each country will be able to include three older players. The women’s football competition, which was first held at the Atlanta Games in 1996, has no age restriction on players. A packed schedule means the football competition will ‘kick off’ two days before the Olympic opening ceremony. The venues include the City of Coventry Stadium, ideally located in the centre of the country, the Millenium Stadium in the Welsh capital Cardiff, St James’ Park Newcastle and one of the world’s most famous football grounds, Old Trafford Manchester, home of MUFC.
Much controversy has surrounded the idea of a G.B. football team, as the four home nations, Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland historically play under their own banners. The associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland issued a statement voicing their “collective opposition to Team GB participation at the 2012 Olympic Games”. BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said, ‘Seeing Team GB take to the pitch in 2012 will be one of the defining moments of the London Games. It would be unthinkable to host the Olympics in Britain, home of the world’s most knowledgeable and passionate football fans, and not have Team GB represented in men’s and women’s football’. It now seems likely there will be a GB Team, with a number of players expressing interest, notably David Beckham. Whether the team will be made up of English players only, remains to be seen, and will depend on the four FAs finding some common ground.
David Beckham, Aaron Ramsey [Welsh captain], Gareth Bale [Wales] have all expressed interest in a GB Team but will have to face something of a culture shock as they will be expected to stay in the Athlete’s Village at some stage, a far cry from the luxury they may be used to! Top Scottish women’s player, Kim Little, said recently “it’s a one-off tournament and I’m British and Scottish, so, yes, I’d play’, which must surely echo the thoughts of many other players faced with the opportunity to take part in an Olympic event.