Confessions of an Olympic football convert


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I have to confess, I used to be one of those people who believed that football had no place in the Olympics. I said as much on Twitter once, shortly before vanishing under an avalanche of tweets from furious South Americans. You see, though we here in Blighty tend to view Olympic Football as something on a par with Olympic Ker-Plunk, everyone else has been taking it seriously for years. We’re actually the odd ones out. And I’ll tell you why…

Amateurism, shamateurism

I love the notion that football’s millionaires are going to somehow taint the amateur spirit of the Olympics. Here’s the breaking news; that horse hasn’t just bolted, he’s crossed the border and made a new life for himself, raising a stable full of colts while running a moderately successful second-hand bookshop in Tenby.  Do you think Jessica Ennis did those BP adverts in return for a tank full of unleaded? Do you think McDonalds and UPS and all the other commercial ‘partners’ are in it just because they really love the pole vault? There are many dedicated amateurs in the Olympics whose reward for their participation will be little more than a nice story for the Grandchildren, but every event here is a giant udder full of cash waiting to be milked. They have tennis in the Olympics now, for goodness sake. Venus Williams has won three gold medals and it’s not like she strings her own rackets.

A win is a win

I like the idea that ‘if a sport’s highest accolade isn’t an Olympic gold then it shouldn’t be involved in the Games’, but it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Bradley Wiggins could ride a Penny Farthing around the velodrome while smoking an enormous cigar and it still wouldn’t take away the magnificence of his Tour de France victory last weekend. Audley Harrison is proof that there’s a world of boxing outside the Olympics and it’s a little more tricky to dominate, while few would argue that the NBA is an inferior product to what we’ll see in the coming weeks. This is sport, this is a competition, it’s there to be won. Let’s revel in the clash of nation upon nation and not stand around making snide remarks about perceived prestige and whether or not it will affect the co-efficients. 

Some of the world's best players are here

Mix and match they may be, but some of the quality on display will be breathtaking. Uruguay will be lining up with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani up front, for heaven’s sake.. Let’s see you make a bitchy aside about that strikeforce. Brazil have brought Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Hulk, along with Football Manager’s Leandro Damiao and butter-booted boy wonder Neymar. Spain have pretty much just sent the U21 European Championship winning side of 2011, making the very reasonable assumption that starlets like Javi Martinez, Iker Munian and Juan Mata are so good, they don’t really need any ‘senior’ professionals. If you can’t get excited about the players at London 2012, then I’m not entirely convinced that this sport is for you anyway.

Tournament football is important

Every two years, Great Britain’s football teams either fail to qualify for a major tournament or they screw it up so badly that only the French can make them look halfway competent. This has been happening for a very long time now and if there’s a sign that it’s going to end soon, I haven’t seen it. Other nations, particularly the South Americans, take every tournament at every age level seriously, including this one, They use it as a means of testing and blooding their young talent, readying them for a future World Cup and, frankly, we are in no position to tell them that they’re doing it wrong. Just once, it might be worth trying something new and seeing if we learn anything. Even if we do lose.

It's football for God's sake! I need this!

Are you seriously going to ignore ACTUAL football in favour of something else? It’s been almost a month since the end of the European Championships and I, for one, am starting to go a little stir crazy. I’ve tried watching MLS, I’ve tried ‘Premier League Years’, I’ve even tried taking my game of Football Manager so seriously that I watch the other fixtures for ‘scouting’ purposes. Nothing’s working. Without football, my life bobs along like an empty dingy, bumping gently into events like ‘shopping’ and ‘talking about things that aren’t football’. This simply will not do. We are talking about entire days of football that start at noon and finish at 10pm and you’re quibbling about whether or not ‘it belongs in the Olympics?’ You are dead to me. Dead.