By Tzevai Chong
With London 2012 less than a year away, public interest has been increasing regarding the make up of the Team GB football squad.
Current England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce has been confirmed as the head coach for the tournament but the four home nation Football Associations have failed to reach any agreement regarding player availability.
The Football Association of Wales have been one of the louder voices opposing the idea with their main concern being the possible implications with football’s governing body FIFA regarding the principality’s status as an individual footballing nation. Despite FIFA publicly declaring that a combined GB team at the Olympics would have no bearing on future status there are still many within the home nations whose fears are yet to be allayed.
Despite the attempts of the FAW to distance themselves from Team GB, they have been left reeling in the past week with pictures surfacing of both Gareth Bale and captain Aaron Ramsey, arguably Wales’ two most prominent players, donning the Olympic team’s kit and publicly stating their desire to be involved.
Spokesmen from the FAW and the Football Supporters Federation Cymru (FSF Cymru) have raised their concerns at Bale’s “ill-advised” appearance in the shirt but with Ramsey now joining him they find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
While FSF Cymru’s statement that “the majority of Welsh supporters are against it” would seem to be accurate enough, the reasons for opposition are not simply down to the ‘us against them’ mentality.
Having spoken to a few fans it appears that a large number of them are against the idea of our stars playing at the Olympics but, while a fair few of them see it as siding with the enemy, the biggest bone of contention seems to lie with FIFA. Despite their insistence that ‘nothing changes’, given all the recent allegations of corruption surrounding the governing body, along with it’s less than glowing past, it’s no wonder that fans are hardly willing to take them at their word.
While the fans seem less than convinced by the notion of Welsh participation in Team GB, the players appear to be much more forthcoming. Just yesterday Liverpool and Wales striker Craig Bellamy voiced his support for Bale and Ramsey, claiming that their participation would be a positive influence on the Welsh national team, while at the same time rubbishing the idea that Wales would lose their identity.
So what powers do the FAW have to prevent these players taking to the field at London 2012? The simple answer is none. They have no legal basis to prevent these players taking part and are at their mercy when it comes to the final decision.
Is this a sign of the players going against their nationality? I don’t believe so. When it comes to proudly declaring my nationality I’m as staunchly Welsh as anyone, but at the end of the day we’re all still British aren’t we?
Personally, I’d love to see two of the biggest sporting talents in Wales representing us on a global stage. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for these guys and who are we to deny them?