There’s no union, Jack.
In 2012, a team of British sprinters, swimmers, weight lifters and what not will march into London’s new Olympic Stadium behind one flag, the Union Jack. But the question remains whether the likes of Wayne Rooney, Darren Fletcher and Gareth Bale will be among them.
Great Britain has not put together a unified team in nearly 50 years, but Gordon Brown the United Kingdom prime minister, is determined to do so before the world arrives in four years’ time.
Old ways die hard in Britain. While the U.K. joined the European Union, it has clung to the Pound Sterling as its currency, rather than the Euro, which is everywhere else. Perhaps the only traditions more important than money are one’s heritage and the football, and those two are very much intertwined.
Football is king in the U.K. and Great Britain doesn’t have a national football team. It has four: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Always have, always will,
“It's been black and white from day one,” said George Burley, Scotland manager, earlier this week.
David Beckham, who was one of the Brit stars brought to Beijing for the Olympic closing ceremonies last Sunday, favors a unified team. Then again, he’s English.
Those with the most at stake in building a Team GB for 2012 are the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish. Give an inch, they fear, and FIFA will take away everything.
If you ever wondered why there are three more FIFA members than International Olympic Committee, look no further than the fractured U.K. football national teams.
It’s a deal brokered back in 1946, when home nations were promised a special dispensation to remain separate. Forever.
One wonders, however, can’t the Brits all get along, at least for a fortnight in four years?
Let them have their separate teams in the World Cup and European Champions. After all, those combined teams have won a grand total of what, one trophy, in all those years. None of them qualified for this summer’s Euro. Fortunately, Team GB would gain automatic entry into the London Games by virtue of being the host country.
It will be fascinating to watch the argument for the Team GB play out over the coming months. Ever the politician, PM Brown favors a Scot, Sir Alex Ferguson, as the manager.
Peter Rees, the president of the Welsh football association, has said, “It will be a cold day in hell before any Wales player plays for Team GB at the Olympics.”
Older generations are steadfast in opposition. Sir Sean Connery calls for Scotland to be separate, not just in football but all sports, in future Olympiads.
Another, albeit younger, Scotsman, gold-medal cyclist Chris Hoy, supports unification. But Hoy admits, “I don’t know much about the football situation in terms of the politics. But every sport should be represented at the Olympics. I’m sure they will sort it out.”
Apparently Hoy never watched Braveheart.
Sir Craig Reedie, a respected Scottish sports executive, and member of the London Organising Committee, claims he’s seen the future. Says Reedie: “It is going to happen—there will be a GB football team at the 2012 Olympics, and people better start getting used to the idea.”
Supporters, Get Ready
Got a passion for singing, chanting or waving a flag in support of Sounders FC?
Then come on down to Qwest Field on the evening of September 11 for a primer meeting on supporter groups. Join club and stadium staff as they go over the goals and guidelines for guys and gals wishing to form legions loyal to the boys in Rave Green.
“Supporters groups will play a huge role in the atmosphere created at matches next year at Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field,” says Bart Wiley of Sounders FC. “We want them to know that as a front office, we will work with them to ensure they have the tools they need to succeed.”
The meeting is for current supporters groups, people interested in starting a group, or anyone curious about learning more about supporters groups. It will begin at 7 p.m. in the West Club Lounge of Qwest Field.
Reserve your place by Sept. 8 by sending an Email to email@example.com with name, number of people attending and email address. Seating is limited to the first 500.
Those attending will receive a complimentary ticket to the USL Sounders match Sept. 13 vs. Atlanta. That night, you’re invited to sit or (preferably) stand alongside the Sounders’ existing supporters group.
Begin getting your act together now, get to know each other over the winter and then get ready to rock when Sounders FC hits the field.
Sounders to Get Busy
After being idle over Labor Day weekend, the USL Sounders will get busy in a hurry. Beginning with Tuesday’s friendly at San Jose, they play five matches in 18 days, with the last four all at home.
The Earthquakes, now entering the final stretch of their first year in MLS, are unbeaten (2-0-4) in their last six outings. A three-match league homestand starts Saturday.
Meanwhile, Seattle is ready to mount a final push toward the playoffs, beginning Sept. 6 against Miami. If the Sounders are to go out in style, repeating as champions, they will need to get healthy and bring their ‘A’ game.
Going into their break, Seattle is fourth in the USL standings and has lost only once in five combined meetings with Puerto Rico and Vancouver, the two sides battling for the best record.
Ciaran O’Brien, who provided reinforcement to the midfield in the wake of injuries the past month, has been recalled from his loan by Colorado.
Turn On, Tune In
This holiday weekend brings to the tube the launch of league play in Italy and Spain, plus some top-notch derbies throughout Europe.
There’s lots of buzz around the San Siro, what with the arrival of Jose Mourinho at Inter and Ronaldinho at AC Milan. Inter visits Sampdoria for the 11:30 Saturday match on Fox Soccer Channel. On Sunday, Milan hosts Bologna (6 a.m., FSC).
Find a pub and get there early for Sunday’s three featured derbies. It begins before the sun rises, with a 5 a.m. kickoff of the first Old Firm fixture of the season, with Celtic home to Rangers. At virtually the same hour (5:30), Chelsea meets Spurs. Finally, at noon, Lyon plays St. Etienne in Ligue 1.
On home soil, Bruce Arena should have Beckham and Donovan available for Saturday afternoon’s (4:30, HDNet) Galaxy-Revs encounter.
Tuesday night, it will be difficult to think what might have been. The U.S. Open Cup Final between D.C. United and Charleston begins at 4:30 on FSC. The Battery ousted the Sounders in a semifinal tiebreaker, otherwise we would all have been at Qwest that night.
A new era of Seattle Pacific men’s soccer opened Thursday night. Mark Collings succeeds Cliff McCrath, who guided the program for the past 38 seasons, including five NCAA Division II championships. Despite dominating play, in their first outing the Falcons were forced to settle for a scoreless draw with Cal State Monterey Bay……This weekend represents the calm before the storm in youth soccer. League play begins around the state on Sept. 6…Brian Ching, the former Zag and Sounder striker, has been called-up again for upcoming U.S. qualifiers against Cuba and T&T…Hope Solo and the golden WNT will begin a three-match, week-long victory tour versus Ireland Sept. 13 in Philadelphia…How about those USL teams? Both Puerto Rico and Montreal faired better than Chivas USA and New England in the first leg of CONCACAF Champions League games. Return legs bring the Goats and Revs home this week…Ah, autumn in Alberta. That’s what awaits Mexico in its qualifier with Canada, Oct. 15 in Edmonton. Tickets go on sale beginning Tuesday…Two Oregonians are amongst the U.S. team selected for a series of futsal friendlies with Brazil next week. The FIFA indoor five-a-side championships will be played in Brasilia and Rio starting Sept. 30.