Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blogathon: The Olympic football farce

A quarter of the way through. The Red Bull is on ice. And I hope you all had a successful day football watching. Or, at the very least, a not too depressing today.

@Hibernitoon came up with this one on Twitter: Should football be an Olympic sport?

Team GB - and that's a ridiculous name that really gets on my nerves - aren't a big part of this argument.

I'm actually a Team GB agnostic. I can see why the SFA and their Celtic compadres are agin it. I feel that the threat to our nationhood might be getting overplayed somewhat but I can understand why anyone would be wary of Sepp "my word is my bond, my handshake my apology" Blatter.

Apparently there is a desperation to get the Celts involved because an England only team would be seen as discriminatory by the Olympic authorities.

Which is the kind of hypocrisy that shows why the Olympics shouldn't include a football tournament.

Football is a worldwide phenomenon. The newly professional Olympic movement looked at that and thought: "Yeah, why not, we'll grab a slice of that pie."

Fifa said: "Haud on a wee second here. The fitba's ours. You cannae have it."

So a compromise is drawn up. Here's your football but there's a condition. Under-23s only. Plus a couple of over aged players which might come in handy if, at any point in the future, you might want an English chap called David to sell a few shirts.

Perfect. Two massively corrupt - allegedly, sure they're all really nice blokes in reality - and unaccountable sports bodies carve up international football.

In a way that is discriminatory.

You can't play if you're over 23. That's OK discrimination. But Team GB can't play if there are only English players involved. That's bad discrimination.

But, they say, what a hothouse the Olympic tournament provides for developing young talent in the environment of major championship football.

Stick that right up yer bum.

It's the Olympic Games not a creche.

The best athletes striving for the best performance in their chosen field.

Not the chaps that might one day be the best footballers in their country practicing for the day they can play in a bigger tournament.

Yes, the Olympics is a bloated, commercialised behemoth that demands you have a certain type of credit card before you can even apply to maybe be able to buy tickets.

But if you're a cyclist or a swimmer or a rower or a fencer it's the event you prepare for and dream about throughout your career.

It shouldn't be the home of a compromised tournament that exists only because the Olympics has become a movement that sees the commercialised, grotesque face of modern football and thinks: "Bring it on, we like the look of that."

And I know the tournament has its fans. And I've enjoyed it myself in the past - even under the normal BBC conditions of "no Brits, graveyard slot, maybe get Garth Crooks to present it on his own" - but I feel its inclusion on the Olympic roster is wrong.

Despite everything I hate about what the Olympic has become I'm a bit of an Olympic romantic.

It should be about the best. The football tournament isn't about that. So it should go.

And don't get me started on golf.

Mind you, there is always something to suggest that it might be worthwhile.

In 1948 a very young Scottish goalkeeper appeared at the Olympics in London under the tutelage of Team GB - I'm prepared to bet that name was never mentioned - manager Matt Busby.

What experience, what insight into the art of goalkeeping did Ronnie Simpson learn in 1948 that he was able to call on during his storied year in 1967 when he beat England at Wembley and won the European Cup with Celtic?

So there it is: guarantee me that in 19 years Scotland's Olympic football involvement in 2012 will produce a European Cup winner and an unofficial world champion and the tournament can stay. And I'll even start saying "Team GB."

> Full disclosure: I do have tickets for next year's Olympic football at Hampden and at St James' Park. I'm a hypocrite. I expect that will stand me in good stead for a career as a sports administrator.

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