Ex Manchester United & Real Madrid Star Beckham Should Cheer Up: Olympic Football Is Rubbish Anyway
With Euro 2012 nearly over, Wimbledon well underway and the Olympics just around the corner us sports fans are like overweight kids let loose in a particularly well-stocked sweet shop, especially when you consider that none of these sporting events has - yet - become yet another tool in reinforcing the monopoly over sports that Sky uses to entice people in to paying for its services (I still haven't got over the fact that I can no longer watch Test Cricket on terrestrial TV, a crying shame and an affront to cricket fans everywhere). Maybe in 10 years time Sky will have it's own pay-per-view Olympics or Wimbledon channel. Actually, it's far more likely that the Euros and the World Cup will go this way, driven by the insatiable commercial greed that powers Football these days. I'm almost a little surprised this hasn't happened already. It will, mark my words...
Anyway, I digress. What I really want to talk about is the news that David Beckham has not been chosen as part of Team GB, the patchwork assembly of British footballers who have been selected to fail in the Olympic's 'Soccer' tournament, and what the fact that he even felt he should be included says about how incongruous a sport like Football is in the context of the Olympics.
You see, I love the Olympics. I have fond memories of watching many summer games as a child. I can remember Daley Thompson dominating the Decathlon; Ovett and Coe's epic battles on the racetrack; Jonathan Edwards jumping almost out of the stadium; Sean Kerly's men's Hockey team winning gold at what seemed like 5 O'clock in the morning, as well as a whole host of less specific memories accumulated over the years. And what's great about watching the Olympics is watching sports like Hockey that I wouldn't normally take too much notice of, and athletes like Sean Kerly who I had never heard of before that summer in Seoul in 1988 (and haven't really heard too much of since). That's a good thing though; it means our memories of a man like Kerly are forever linked to his most glorious sporting achievement. For a fleeting moment in time we watched a British team become the best by beating the rest.
And this is where my bone of contention with sending a Football team to the Olympics stems from. I remember when it was announced we would be sending a team I felt a little uneasy, and couldn't quite work out why. Months later it suddenly struck me: What I enjoy about the Olympics is watching sports I wouldn't usually watch and watching the best in the world at those sports competing against each other. If you are, say, a gymnast or a 110 metre hurdler then the Olympics is the pinnacle; it's everything you've trained so hard and so long to do. Watching the best compete is what make any sport really exciting. The Olympics has this special aura precisely because it's the one real opportunity gymnasts, swimmers, athletes and the like have to compete on a global stage, in front of an audience who, rightly or wrongly, wouldn't ususally give their sports the time of day. It's a glorious moment, a chance to shine and show the world what years of hard-work and sacrifice can achieve.
The Olympics has this special aura precisely because it's the one real opportunity gymnasts, swimmers, athletes and the like have to compete on a global stage
But when it comes to Football is that really the case? The World Cup is undoubtedly its biggest stage, closely followed by the European Championship, then the Champion's League, and then the global domestic leagues such as the EPL or La Liga. And then comes the Olympics, way down the pecking order. Evidence for this comes from the fact that David Beckham should even be considered - by himself or anyone else - as captain of Team GB. This is a man who was once a great servant and captain for his country, a fine footballer and individual. And yet he hasn't played international football for nearly 3 years and wouldn't appear to be any part of Roy Hodgson's plans as he takes England towards the next World Cup. Fact is, he's past his prime and has been for longer than his 3 year absence from the England squad. He is, with all due respect, not the best this country has to offer. The best this country has to offer is probably someone like Wayne Rooney, who won't be going anywhere near the games.
The Olympics is about sending your country's best to compete with the best on the biggest stage in the world. With Football we are sending a rag-tag group of players to compete in a tournament that isn't even one of the best. Isn't this completely against the Olympic spirit? In fact I would go so far as to ask whether the inclusion of Professional Football in the Olympic Games isn't an affront to the Games itself? We aren't going to be watching the best compete with the best, but rather a team that is as good as can be cobbled together compete in what I fear will be a distinctly average competition. This is not why I watch the games. It's certainly not the kind of thing that would keep me up until 5 in the morning if I lived on the other side of the world. Give me another Sean Kerly to get behind and I'm right there but as far as the football goes this is one competition too far. Football has it's own Olympics. It's called the World Cup, probably the only international sporting event that can compete with the Olympics in terms of coverage. Why don't we just leave it at that? I'd rather watch the weightlifting. At least you know the weightlifters are the best.
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