POSTED: November 13th 2008

Capello joins the Olympic game

Fabio Capello: an Olympic dreamer /
Fabio Capello: an Olympic dreamer /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Fabio Capello may have inadvertantly increased multi-national confusion over the project to line up a British football team at the 2012 Olympic Games.

England's Italian national manager said, in an interview with the official magazine of FIFA, the world governing body, that taking part in the Games would be “a dream come true” and, coincidentally, his England contract expires that very summer.

But Capello’s words will only exacerbate suspicions among the other three home nations – Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – about the international dangers of the project.

The four home nations maintain their individual status within the world game on grounds of both history and FIFA statutes. But the “Gang of Three” are all concerned that a united British team at the Olympics will spark demands from the rest of the world for a united British team in the World Cup and European Championship.

Politicians have thrown their weight into the argument on both sides, some doubting earlier guarantees about the “sanctity” of the British four from FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, of the Scottish National Party, derided assurances from both Blatter and FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke over Team GB. He said: “To jeopardise the entire future of Scottish international football on the basis of an undertaking from one official, at one point in time, I think is daft – and all for participation in an under-23 tournament of a few players."

Unpersuasive persuasion

The Scottish FA has always opposed participation in a GB team, despite attempts at persuasion from Lord Colin Moynihan, the chairman of the British Olympic Association.

An SFA spokesman said: “We will not do anything that we feel would jeopardise our status as a footballing nation in our own right. At this stage, we feel that a Team GB does just that. At some point, there is a real danger that a precedent of a Team GB will come back and threaten our status as a separate nation."

The FA of Wales takes a similar line. FAW secretary David Collins said: “Our supporters and the media wishes to see Wales playing in the World Cup and the European Championship. These are the major events and we are not willing to jeopardise our future in those competitions for one year in the Olympics."

Brian Flynn, Wales’ under-21 manager, said: “We’re Welsh, Welsh and more Welsh. The party line is we want to keep our independence and that's so important to us."

An attempt to allay such fears had been undertaken by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy after his meeting with Valcke earlier this week.

Murphy said: “I’m a football fan, I'm a Scotland fan, as well as being the secretary of state which is why I met Jerome Valcke. He confirmed that FIFA’s executive will agree this one-off under-23 tournament and will not jeopardise the status of any of the home nations and I think that's very welcome news."

As for Capello, he has no doubts about the principle. He said: “It’s only fair that Great Britain should have a football team in the Olympics but it is up to others to decide how and with which players.”

Keywords · Fabio Capello · England · Football Association · Olympic Games · London 2012 · Wales · Scotland · Northern Ireland · SFA · FAW · David Collins · Jim Murphy · Alex Salmond

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