Team GB women’s football squad are progressing at the Tokyo Olympics, with the team facing Australia in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Seeing Hege Riise’s team in action may leave some pondering the question of why isn’t there a men’s Team GB football team?
Well, it’s a fairly hot topic and potentially divisive issue in some quarters.
Great Britain has not fielded a men’s team at an Olympic Games since London 2012, and that was something of a one-off, marking the first time a side had featured at a Summer Olympics in 52 years.
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The 2012 men’s team had a number of Welsh players in it, with Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor featuring.
Gareth Bale was also the poster star for the side when their kit was first launched, but had to pull out of the Olympics injured.
Speaking at the squad announcement for Team GB women, Baroness Sue Campbell – the Football Association’s director of women’s football – addressed the issue.
“The women’s football team was there in 2012 because as a home nation we were allowed to enter teams in every sport, and so there was a sort of political pressure to have a men’s and a women’s football team, which we did for Team GB in 2012,” she said.
“There were no teams in 2016. And part of that is because our home countries are very concerned that they don’t want to lose their status in European or FIFA World Cups or European championships as Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or England, and that Team GB – if you can compete as Team GB in the Olympics, you know, could you compete as Team GB in the World Cup?
“We’ve worked very hard with the home countries, they’ve been incredibly supportive and they all agreed that they didn’t want to stand in the way of individual players who wanted this very, very special moment in their sporting careers.
“So, of course we’re very excited and it’s actually the first time that England Women have qualified, which we did at the World Cup, to actually take a team to an Olympics so it’s a very special event for us, and a very special occasion.”
Team GB’s Chef de Mission Mark England said he would “love” to see a men’s Team GB football team return to the Olympics.
Asked if he could see it happening, he said: “I would absolutely love to take a men’s football team to the Olympic Games.
“I think the experiences that the women have had through the home country FAs, hopefully, will be that positive step and impetus for an open dialogue on men’s teams in the future.”
An agreement was reached between home associations for Team GB women to go ahead and compete, but this was for one Olympic cycle only.
“We’ve only concentrated on this particular cycle, and then as soon as this one is over, we’ll be getting across the negotiation table to ensure that all of the good work that’s been done for this particular cycle, we can replicate in 2024 and 2028 as well,” he continued.
“I think the opportunity for one home nation, in this case the Football Association, is not an unusual pathway to qualification across a whole variety of sports for Great Britain, and they carry that mantle and so our direct relationship has been through their particular team leader.
“What we are seeing, and I think everybody is in agreement, is that this is a great model to be taking forward. What’s encouraging is that obviously the strength now that we can see in women’s football is something that we’d be very disappointed if, in France in Paris in 2024 and on to Los Angeles in 2028, that we weren’t fielding competitive teams across all sports but in particular competitive teams in football as well.”