Palestine football team

October 26, 2008

I don’t think anyone would argue that sport isn’t a factor in modern national identity.

Thats one reason that I don’t support Gordon Brown’s GB Olympic football team in the 2012 London Olympics.

To put at threat four nations football teams in order to promote Gordon Brown’s Britishness agenda is a ridiculuous notion.

But is Gordon Brown’s Britishness agenda beginning to unravel due to lack of public support? If reports from The Times are correct then the planned British Day has bit the dust:

“The great national day debate arrives at a consensus – let’s call it off.

“You can pack up the Union Jacks, cancel the street parties and tell the pet shop that you won’t be needing that bulldog after all. The government has quietly dropped plans to have a British Day.

“Gordon Brown had called for a day to celebrate British identity in a speech delivered in 2006, when he was still chancellor.

“Earlier this year an official report by Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney-general, had proposed that the first patriotic bank holiday should be held to coincide with the 2012 Olympics.

“However, Michael Wills, the justice minister (who says he’s responsible for something called “the governance of Britain agenda”), told MPs last week: “There are no plans to introduce a national day at this time.” ”

If anyone doubts the influence of sport in national identity then they should look at today’s historic football match between Palestine and Jordan.

It is the first time the Palestine team will be playing on ‘home soil’. Its in the West Bank in front of a capacity 6500 crowd in the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in AIRam, north Jersualem.

The Palestine football team was only recognised by FIFA in 1998, after the creation of the Palestinian Authority.

In fact, sport is the only realm where Palestine officially exists, in all other areas the Palestine people are represented by the Palestinian Authority, even at the UN.

So having an actual Palestine football team playing in the West Bank must be incredibly symbolic to Palestinians. It represents another step on the road to a fully independent Palestine.

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Lord Coe: Scots and Welsh; F**k ’em!

October 1, 2008

The Campaign for an English Parliament has handily printed off Lord Coe’s outburst regarding his attempts to create a British National Football Team at the 2012 Olympics.

(Its just as well because the online version of The London Paper it seems has removed the story. If anyone has the printed edition its on Page 5.)

The key quote is:

But he said the BOA, which selects teams for the Games, has decided to press ahead with a football squad despite the opposition.

When asked last night about the opposition from the Welsh and Scots, Coe replied bluntly: “F*** em!

Thanks, Seb!

How much are the Scots and Welsh taxpayers paying into the London Olympics bid again?

As I mentioned in a previous post, a joint GB football team would endanger the survival of all the Home Nation football teams. That’s precisely why Lord Coe’s plans have met with such opposition.

Lord Coe also confirmed that Alex Ferguson, the current Manchester United manager, has assured him he will be managing the side.

The London Paper reports that Lord Coe has obviously now changed Ferguson’s mind on the matter, who was initially reluctant.

He might be even more reluctant now.

As for Sebastian Coe? Can’t say I’m surprised. I always preferred Ovett anyway.

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England v Australia Olympic battle

August 29, 2008

While politicans try to make political capital of the Olympics it seems that a spat has developed between England and Australia over the medal tally.

It started when The Sun drove mobile billboards around London and Sydney saying ‘Where the bloody hell were you?’ and pointing out Team GB’s superior gold medal tally to Australia.

Now the Australians have hit back saying that Australia have 14 gold medals compared England’s 13.

The Australian Daily Telegraph have now performed a similar stunt.

‘Above you in the medal table’ the Aussies claim.

I’m just waiting for the Australian Government to publicly endorse the SNP and Plaid Cymru and demand Scottish and Welsh independence!


Why the UK should have separate Olympic teams

August 26, 2008

Team GB took 311 athletes to the 2008 Olympic Games according to the Team GB website.

Yet the IOC only provides each country a limited number of slots for their athletes.

That meant for instance Hayley Haining couldn’t go to Beijing when Paula Radcliffe declared herself fit.

Now there are always going to be losers in any qualifying system for the limited slot placement in the Olympics.

But separate Olympic teams for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would widen the opportunities for our athletes, and ensure that as many athletes as possible fill each countries slots.

Consider this:

The UK with a population of around 60 million sent 311 athletes.

England’s population of around 50 million is slightly higher than Spain’s 46 million. Spain sent 312 athletes to Beijing. (These and other countries figures obtained from the Yahoo Olympic site.) You’d probably be talking at least the 311 athletes in a English Olympic team. (The Team GB breaks down England by region but subtracting the other countries totals from the 311 Team GB total gives an English total of 268 athletes.)

Scotland’s population is around 5 million. Slightly higher than Croatia’s 4.6 million. Croatia sent 110 athletes to Beijing. Probably the same numbers as a possible Scottish team, although New Zealand with 4.2 million sent 209 athletes. (A quick filter in the Team GB site gives 26 athletes at the 2008 Olympics.)

Wales’ population is around 3 million. Just slightly smaller than Lithuania. They sent 74 athletes. (A quick filter in the Team GB site gives 14 Welsh athletes in the Beijing Olympics.)

Northern Ireland’s population is around 1.8 million. Not far off Slovenia’s 2 million. They sent 62 athletes. (A quick filter in the Team GB site gives 3 athletes, although Northern Irish athletes are also eligible for the Irish Olympic squad.)

Let’s add that up:-

England 311
Scotland 110
Wales 74
Northern Ireland 62

Thats a rough estimate of 557. That’s an increase in athletes for each country from their 2008 totals.

Might even be more if the Home Nations can begin to emulate the New Zealand population density rate. The UK – as four countries – could possibly send about 700 athletes, more than double the present number; a number that would never be possible for the single British Olympic Committee given the UK’s population.

The key here is widening participation in sport for our top athletes.

Athletes that have experience in the Olympics generally do better in the next one. They know what the Olympics is all about, they have seen what it takes to compete at that level, and work that bit harder to achieve their Olympic dreams next time.

Athletes that don’t make the slot places may just give up altogether.

With 4 different Olympic committees, sport all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could flourish.

And of course, there’s no reason for the IOC to object to four different IOC bodies in the UK. There were 12 territories represented at the 2008 Olympics that are not recognised countries.

Bermuda has its own representation. Britain own those islands; Bermuda is not independent or have a seat at the UN. Bermuda sent 6 athletes to the Olympics. And for a population of 66 000 people that’s simply staggering.

Thats almost 1 in 10000 people there being Olympic athletes.

Or England sending 5000 athletes to Beijing.


Home Nations Olympic teams in history

August 25, 2008

My previous post described how the 1908 Great Britain Olympic football squad was in fact the English national amateur team.

One other thing of interest in that Olympics was that the Home Nations representated themselves in some sports.

For example, in Hockey there was a English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh side. (This before before the independence of Ireland and the partition of Northern Ireland.)

They competed with France and Germany to get the medals.

England won gold. Ireland won the silver. Scotland and Wales shared the bronze, as there was no 3rd place play-off.

Scotland beating Germany 4-0 at hockey in the 1908 Olympics

England and Ireland representated themselves at Polo.

The IOC rules about countries competing only if they have an IOC committee in place where enforced at these London games.

This was a British ploy to prevent the situation that had happened two years previous in the 1906 Intercalated Olympics – basically a mid term Olympics between 1904 and 1908.

Peter O’Connor, an Irish long jumper, high jumper and triple jumper, was sent to Athens by the GAA and the IAAA, Irish sport authorities. Of course, Ireland at the time was not independent from Britain and hence Peter and other Irish atheletes found themselves listed as representing Britain.

In a controversial long jump competition, Peter came second, but as the Union flag was raised to represent his silver, Peter climbed the flagpole and waved his Irish flag instead.

He later won the gold medal in the triple jump.

That’s why the IOC ruling was enforced in 1908 by the London Olympics, to try and stop any such political statements. However to primarily appease the Irish they allowed the Home Nations to represent themselves at some sports; particularly in those sports where Ireland had a good chance to win a gold medal.

A knock-on effect of this ruling was that Finland – at the time ruled by Russia – was listed as Russian. This was particularly upsetting for the Finns as Russia had not even bothered to send a team.

They decided to have no flag instead.

The official report on the London games stated “it might on another occasion be better to consider separate entries from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales…as well as from both New Zealand and Australia”

Even in the imperial mood of 1908 came the realisation that separate teams were the way forward.

One hundred years later and we’re still having the debate in the UK!


UK Olympic football team

August 24, 2008

There have been UK football olympic teams in the past. Indeed the UK team won gold in the first football tournament in 1908 – the UK also won when football was a demonstration sport in the 1900 Olympics in Paris – although only five countries competed at the time. This UK team however was the England national amateur team. The UK won again in 1912 and again the team entered was the England national amateur team.

London 1908 English amateur national football team at the Olympics

In fact all the subsequent entries of the UK team were amateur teams predominately based on the English national amateur team.

The politics of football is completely different today than it was in the early 20th century with few teams taking part, and even in the early seventies when an English based UK amateur side was competing in the 1972 Olympics.

The UK has not fielded an joint footballing team since 1974 when the English Football Association scrapped the distinction between professional and amateur.

As football has grown around the world, becoming a truly global game, other nations having been looking at the UK and asking why have they four teams representating the UK, each with a vote in FIFA.

So any suggestion of a UK Football Olympic team would only provide weight to their argument and threaten the existence of the Home Nations teams.

That is why it seems that there is a remarkable weight of opinion that the UK should not enter a joint football team in the 2012 Olympic Games:-

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA:

“If you start to put together a combined team for the Olympic Games, the question will automatically come up that there are four different associations so how can they play in one team.

If this is the case then why the hell do they have four associations and four votes and their own vice-presidency?

This will put into question all the privileges that the British associations were given by the Congress in 1946.”.

Gordon Smith, Scottish Football Association chief executive:

“We don’t want anything to do with a British team and made that clear from very early on.

“I have met Gordon Brown, but our position remains the same. A Team UK would raise questions in terms of our future as an autonomous footballing nation.

“Right now we have our own association, league and national team and that is not something we are willing to compromise.

“I don’t see a change of heart on this. There’s no backing for this from our administration or our supporters.”

Alan Duncan, from the Association of Tartan Army Clubs:

“When is Gordon Brown going to realise that nobody wants a Team UK, a position that could threaten our own independent national side?

“To be honest, nobody up here takes anything that Brown says seriously anymore.

“He has proven time and time again that he is more interested in being English than Scottish. He even admitted to supporting the England team.

“Scotland is focussed on trying to qualify for World Cups and European championships.”

Craig Brown, former Scotland manager:

“In my opinion, it would be axiomatic that such a ‘temporary’ merger could lead to the eventual permanent combination of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales into a single footballing entity in future major tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships.”

Malcolm Clarke, Football Supporters Federation of Engand:

“The FSF is opposed to a single UK team in the Olympics.

We believe that such a team would be an entirely artificial entity given the existence of separate teams from each of the 4 countries in the UK in all other forms of International football, which is a tradition of very long standing which fans from the 4 countries wish to retain.

We share the fears of fans from the other UK countries that this precedent might be used to challenge the separate existence of those teams in the future, notwithstanding the assurances given by FIFA that this will not happen.”

Philip Smyth, Amalgamation of Official NI Fans Clubs :

“The Amalgamation of Official NISCs is opposed to the concept of a United Kingdom representative team participating in the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament.

We feel that such a move would undoubtedly lead to increased lobbying for an end to the present individual representative status of the four British Associations, a scenario which International fans throughout the Home Nations would be opposed to.”

Paul Corkrey, Football Supporters Federation Cymru :

“The Olympic side has our best wishes but it could mean the death of a country’s football team and the Welsh should not have to pay that price.”

Why then does Gordon Brown seem ‘determined’ to have a UK Olympic football team in the 2012 Olympic Games?

Only the government and the English FA are in favour.

Now it seems the Prime Minister is having talks with Sepp Blatter on the matter.

Is he mad???

Is his Britishness agenda so important that he risks the national teams of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Sepp Blatter has taken the view that if the UK was insistent on entering then:

“They should enter only a team composed of players from England”

That view is probably why the English Football Association itself seems in favour of a UK Football Olympic team.

As in the past, any UK team will be an English team, in all but name.

If Gordon Brown is really serious about a UK Olympic football team, I suggest the Home Nations play off for the right to represent the UK.

A joint team will be the beginning of the end for the Home Nations. The other nations just won’t stand four separate teams in FIFA if a UK team was submitted.

Wouldn’t the best way forward be the Home Nations representating themselves at the Olympics?

That makes much more sense.


Elderly neighbours arrested at Olympic protest zone

August 23, 2008

So the Olympics is nearly over.

Didn’t see much of it myself but I did manage to catch Usain Bolt’s remarkable world records.

China’s hosting of the Games has been controversial.

At the start, pro Tibetan protesters unfurled banners at the Birds Nest stadium. As foreigners they were deported.

The Chinese government has allowed for 3 protest zones – away from the Olympic action – for the Chinese to complain during the Olympics. Protesters though have been largely absent as virtually all protests – they have to be applied for – have been refused. And any protestors that speak to foreign media are being arrested.

Two elderly neighbours, Wang Xiuying and Wu Dianyuan, wished to use the protest zone to complain about their forced eviction from their homes in 2001, and tried to get permits four times from the authorities.

Both protesters are nearly eighty. Mrs Wang is nearly blind, registered disabled and does not have electricity in her new home. Both Mrs Wang and Mrs Wu walk with the aid of a stick.

When they turned up at the zones they were arrested.

Chinese pensioners arrested

Now these two elderly women have been sentenced to a year’s “re-education through labour” for their troubles.

Basically a year in a prison camp with hard labour. Although the Chinese government are now saying they will serve their sentence without being incarcerated, probably due to the international attention over the Olympics.

What a way to remember the Olympics!

It just goes to show that the Olympics still are one of the most political events in the world.