On International Women’s Day, Scottish and Welsh footballers are insisting they would if necessary defy their respective FA’s to play for Team GB at the 2016 Olympics, should the team be resurrected from 2012 and qualify for Brazil.
By Tony Leighton
The English FA last week announced their intention to enter both men’s and women’s teams for the event, and – not unexpectedly – there was a vitriolic response from the Scottish FA, the FA of Wales and the Irish FA.
The three associations were united in their opposition to having Great Britain squads at the 2012 London Olympics and are equally opposed to the 2016 plan.
But Scotland midfielder Kim Little and Wales captain Jess Fishlock, the latter controversially left out of the Welsh squad currently playing at the Istria Cup tournament in Croatia, would play for Team GB if selected.
Seattle Reign player Little, who in 2012 played in all five of Team GB’s games after going against the Scottish FA’s wishes, said at Scotland’s Cyprus Cup base in Larnaca: “Playing in the Olympics was one of the best experiences of my life.
“Whether or not there will be another Team GB is all up in the air at the moment, but if it happens my viewpoint would be the same as last time.”
Little’s Seattle team mate Fishlock, currently on loan at Frankfurt, narrowly missed out on selection for the 2012 squad that was assembled by the then England head coach Hope Powell.
Powell’s replacement Mark Sampson managed Fishlock when both were at Women’s Super League club Bristol Academy. “I understand the FAW’s stance,” said the midfielder, “but if I was asked to play for Team GB I would say ‘Yes.’
“Mark knows what I can offer and, after seeing the success of London 2012 and what it did for the women’s game, I would be love to be involved.”
Sampson would almost certainly be in charge of Team GB, though in order to qualify for the Olympics the coach’s England side would have to finish this year’s World Cup finals in Canada as one of the three highest-placed European nations.
“Everybody in our team is a supporter of the Team GB idea,” said Sampson, whose Cyprus Cup team headquarters are just a mile from Scotland’s, “and we would love the opportunity to go to Brazil to represent Great Britain.
“We are excited at the possibility, but that’s all it is at the moment and we’ve got enough to focus on here at the Cyprus Cup then the World Cup in the summer.”
If the FA’s plan goes ahead and qualification for Brazil is achieved, Sampson will have a “massive selection problem,” said Fishlock.
Scotland’s Jennifer Beattie, who has just joined Manchester City, was like Fishlock in contention for but missed out on a place in the 2012 GB squad.
“If it came to it and I was selected there would have to be a lot of discussions,” said the defender, “but if I was selected I would probably say yes.”
Apart from Little, defender Ifeoma Dieke – another Scot – was the only non-English player in 2012’s Team GB, but unfortunately she suffered an ACL injury in the group game against Cameroon and was ruled out for 12 months.
Back in action for her Swedish club Vittsjo and with the Scotland squad in Cyprus, the hugely experienced Dieke said: “It (Team GB) has been mentioned to me and I went, ‘yes, okay.’
“The 2012 Olympics was a great experience despite my injury, but at 34 I’m not thinking 12 months down the line, I’m focused only on the now.”
In 2012 Team GB lost in the quarter-finals to Canada, but a crowd of 70,584 – a record for a women's game in Britain – had seen GB beat Brazil 1-0 at Wembley.
Neither are workable or likely at present but hypothetically, would you prefer a more strict salary cap in the FA WSL OR should centrally contracted England players (that receive salaries from The FA) be allocated more evenly around WSL1 clubs?