LARRY RYAN: Does football belong in the Olympics?

It is a question that rears its ugly head every four years and no, it has nothing to do with the mystery of why Hungarians are so good at swimming.

Rather, does football truly belong in the Olympics? Watching the cobbled together soccer conglomerate that is Stuart Pearce’s British men’s squad, an anomaly in a sport where England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete separately at international level and have separate governing bodies, gave further ammunition to the doubters.

Seeing them in action against Uruguay the other night at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium will have turned doubters into committed atheists.

In what other Olympic sport would an athlete have to appeal to spectators not to boo during the national anthems? And not just the visiting Uruguayan ditty but the host country’s as well? In the end, some elements of the Cardiff crowd vented its spleen only on Liverpool’s Uruguayan captain Luis Suarez, booing his picture as it was displayed during the anthems. Still, it was hardly an edifying spectacle worthy of an Olympic Games.

Pearce (pictured, inset) may have ignored the selection claims of Scottish and Northern Irish players in naming his 18-man squad, but he was sensible enough to litter it with Welshmen with a cavernous stadium to fill in the group stages.

Had Team GB been handed a pool game at Hampden Park might we have seen a rather different selection?


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