The Olympics is considered by many to be an incredible and unique sporting event. Countries from every corner of the globe all congregate in one city only every four years to battle it out in almost every sport going.
Ask any football fan though, and chances are they’ll tell you that the World Cup is a bigger event on their sporting calendar. Even the European Championships would almost certainly come above the Olympics in terms of viewing priority for those in the continent. The popularity of other footballing tournaments leaves football at the Olympics some way down the pecking order. As of two weeks ago, 1 million tickets for football matches at London 2012 remained unsold, just weeks before the event begins.
So for those domestic players called up to represent their countries at London 2012, it could be possible that their inclusion in the games be more detrimental than fruitful. One of the obvious risks is that of injury, as the games take place just weeks before the start of domestic seasons across the continent, club managers will no doubt be keeping fingers crossed that they begin the season with as few casualties as possible.
The quality of opposition is vast and does not promote the same level of competitiveness that senior international football tournaments might. Spain for example, the team ranked 1st in FIFA World Rankings, find themselves in the same group at the Olympics as Morocco, a team ranked 70 places below them who have not qualified for a FIFA World Cup since 1998. The competition is in places, and with all due respect to Morocco, all but a foregone conclusion. Individuals simply will not benefit from playing teams who can offer very little, when domestically the competition is decided by such fine margins.
Those promoting the sport at the Olympics however, will raise the point that for many representing their countries, it is a fantastic opportunity to pick up international footballing experience. In every squad, only 3 players over the age of 23 are eligible for inclusion. Whilst it may offer experience, it may not prove worthy for many. Take Team GB as an example. Bolton Wanderers’ Marvin Sordell is probably relishing his chance to play at the Olympics, but how useful will the experience gained be with a senior England call up not likely anytime soon. In the meantime, Wanderers’ boss Owen Coyle will be preparing for a gruelling Championship campaign without a key squad member.
Obviously, as host nation Great Britain having a football team is a necessity, and those called up are probably examples of sensible decision making, but the calibre of football domestically in this country comparatively means the Olympics are all but a requirement. Should Team GB players put in masses of effort to secure a gold medal, little will be made of their successes anyway, whereas England making a Euro 2012 quarter final is front page stuff.
The London 2012 Olympics will bring a fantastic event to our capital City, and many of us will be entertained, whether it be from action in the velodrome, on the track or anywhere else, but few will be glued to events at Wembley Stadium or any of the other five footballing stadiums.
So for those involved, it may not be worth their trouble, and as football fans we are all far more concerned with how our clubs get on than how Team GB does at the Olympics. Even though one may have a knock on impact on the other.