Matt’s Monologue: Olympic Football

The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of any athlete’s career.

They come round every four years and are bigger than any event in between. They create legends through gold medals and laughing stocks through predictably bad performances.

You can see this with pretty much any event in the Games; we suddenly become rowing experts, or show a sudden interest in taekwondo.

What, then, are your thoughts on football being part of the Olympics? Traditionally it always has been, though the rules on just who is allowed to participate have changed significantly.

Up until 1984, only amateurs could play, but with the game becoming ever more about money, professionals were admitted and we eventually got to the current situation in Barcelona in 1992, with teams being made up of under-23s, plus three over age players.

Great Britain actually won the gold medal in their first two Olympics, in 1908 and 1912, but stopped entering in 1960 after a number of disappointing early round knock outs.

However, with the Games back in London for 2012, Team GB were involved in the football once again, topping their group before losing on penalties to South Korea in the quarter-finals.

I thought it was fantastic to see the country united again behind a football team, with players from England and Wales selected.

it was also a great experience I am sure for several youngsters who had not previously had the chance to play in major tournaments – the likes of Neil Taylor, Craig Dawson and ex-Tranmere man Marvin Sordell.

I bet Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy thoroughly enjoyed it too, having not reached a World Cup or European Championships during their time with Wales.

Sadly, reforming for 2012 was a one off, and there is no Great Britain football team in Rio this time round, and I think that is reflected in the apathy of how the sport is viewed at the Olympics over here.

We disregard it. It is not seen as important as the World Cup or the Euros.

Go to South America, though, and you will find a completely different outlook.

I was lucky enough to work at Old Trafford during the 2012 games, and you could see first hand just how much winning a gold medal would mean.

For Brazil, it is the only major footballing event they have never won, and high hopes were pinned on the side that competed four years ago.

They eventually got to the final, but lost 2-1 to Mexico, leading to head coach Mano Menezes losing his job.

Just look at the big names involved too; Hulk, Thiago Silva and Marcelo were the over 23 players, whilst Neymar, Oscar and Alexandre Pato featured as well.

I think it is a great shame that we cannot see Great Britain field a similar squad. Would it not be wonderful to see Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams working alongside Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane?

What a team we could put together, but sadly the Football Associations do not all get on, because they feel it would lead to them being swallowed up as individual nations.

Maybe, just maybe, though, if Great Britain were involved, we would see football at the Olympic Games as the important event that it is.


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