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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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.