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Team GB Soccer: A Team And Country Divided

union jack flag Team GB Soccer: A Team And Country Divided

Watching Brazil steamroll over Great Britain on ESPN3 Friday afternoon, it was not only all too apparent how quiet Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium was, but how detached the crowd – and probably TV viewers – were from this Team GB. ESPN co/commentator Tommy Smyth was so bored by Britain’s lack of effort (I don’t think they managed a single shot on target all game) that the diminutive Irishman resorted to reading a few tweets on air.

The difference in quality between Brazil and Great Britain – who were playing their first friendly as the current squad – was no surprise. We all know that Brazil is light years ahead of this Team GB squad. But the issue was compounded more by manager Stuart Pearce deciding to sit a few of the first team, as well as playing a defensive line-up that was a shambles.

Even though there wasn’t much for Great Britain fans to be excited about, supporting Team GB is a strange feeling. I’m Welsh (and an American citizen). I consider myself British. And when completing forms that ask for my country of origin, I write United Kingdom.

But I, and many of the crowd and TV viewers, have never supported a Great Britain soccer team. I love the idea, and I hope they do well in the Olympics, but what does it mean to support Great Britain?

Great Britain sounds and feels like an old fashioned term for when the British empire ruled the world. It’s no wonder that the crowd at the Riverside sitting in relatively stunned silence. After all, what should the fans sing? What chants are appropriate? All we British fans have in common is the British national anthem. And even that is rife with controversy since it’s the same song as the English national anthem. There’ll be no ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ then, the Welsh national anthem.

Other than applause during matches, I’m not expecting to hear the England band playing the theme tune to Battle Of Britain. It would have been an appropriate song if it wasn’t so intertwined with supporting England. Plus the Great Britain has no band.

So we’re left with a Team GB side, managed by a clueless manager, featuring players who haven’t played together hardly at all, playing without their talisman (David Beckham), playing an ineffective dire system, and against teams with far more experience playing together. The only thing Great Britain has going for it is home advantage. And even then, the home advantage counts for nothing because the best we can hope for is enthusiastic applause.

I don’t know much about the strength of Britain’s Olympic opponents in their group (Senegal, UAE and Uruguay), but I’ll be surprised if Britain qualifies for the next round.

Will you be cheering for Great Britain’s soccer team this summer? Do you consider yourself British? And do you have a more positive outlook on Team GB’s chances at the Olympics than I do?

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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23 Responses to Team GB Soccer: A Team And Country Divided

  1. Brad says:

    Uruguay are very strong and arguably the favourites for the tournament. Senegal, while ultimately not bringing the striking power of Cisse and Ba, will likewise prove a very difficult opponent for Great Britain. UAE are the weakest from a talent perspective but they’re an actual team as opposed to the selection of players that is representing Britain.

    Uruguay should finish top, followed by Senegal. Then I think Britain and UAE might finish bottom, level on points with a draw between the two of them. I’ll watch out of curiosity but it’s hard to drum up any real excitement for Great Britain.

  2. Matt says:

    Senegal beat Spain in a pre-Olympic friendly if that means much, they have players scattered around Europe, mostly in France of course. UAE is an all domestic based squad so not much will be known about them.

    GB will probably get out the group, but like England at most major tournament get knocked out by the first good team they face in the knockout. Vickery said it the best on one podcast, most of the teams in the Olympics are teams who played with each other for years through the youth ranks and (especially the two South American sides) are using this tournament to build for the 2014 World Cup. Team GB really have never played together and this isn’t a building project for the next World Cup

  3. trickybrkn says:

    Not sure Pearce is clueless, just doesn’t have the same talent as Brazil and tried to park the bus.

    GB won’t win this thing, but they reward not winning in the Olympics with two there medals. This is much like a U21 tournament, and frankly they are hard to predict. So… an open mind. To me they need to work on wing play in relation to the central defenders.. cause that was just a mess. and scoring a few would be nice. Giggs will have a huge influence so, lets just sit back and enjoy. This isn’t do or die, it is an experiment. as for chanting… most England Chants work for all of Britain.

    • The Gaffer says:

      But “most England chants work for Britain.” That’s one of my main points in the story. There is no Great Britain song or chant that fans can use that isn’t steeped with ties to England.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • dust says:

        The national anthem….

        • The Gaffer says:

          Yes, but that’s still closely tied with England since it’s the same song. I’m Welsh, but it always feels a little bit weird singing the British national anthem knowing that it’s also the English national anthem!

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

  4. James says:

    Not a good summer for the Brits. Murray loses in the Wimbledon final. England lose at the Euros in the quarters. Team GB have little chance of winning a gold medal in the olympics. England will probably lose to South Africa in their test series in cricket.

    Only the beginning of the EPL season will bring back the glory albeit with the foreigners providing most of the excitement.

  5. Andyb says:

    No I won’t be supporting team gb, I’ll be supporting every team gb face. I watched the game Friday and I was happy to see the Welsh players play a big part in a terrible performance. Any ounce of success from this team and the anti-Wales Welsh people will continue to hate on Wales and want a permanent team gb, and the English will see team gb as the only way they’re going to win anything ever again and want it too – all whilst the football associations from around the World are planning on making the home nations merge.

    I have tickets for the bronze medal match so I’m hoping for a Spain & Brazil match (unlikely) or to at least have one of them involved!! As long as team gb don’t make it that far I’ll be happy…

    • The Gaffer says:

      Andy, your unpatriotic views always continue to amaze me. The Welsh FA will be fine, no matter how well, or not, Team GB does this summer.

      I’m Welsh, pro Wales and will be cheering on Team GB this summer.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Andyb says:

        (delete the post below!!!)

        Gaffa, let me tell you a story. On the 6th of July 2005 I fell ill in school and had to leave, as I laid on my sick bed at home I watched old game show repeats on challenge tv, during a break in one of those tv shows I turned over to the BBC news channel where I discovered the Olympic bidding ceremony. I forgot about play your cards right and continued to watch, hoping that London were going to be awarded the games, I’m a massive Olympics fan and wanted it to come to our great Isles. I was as excited as anyone when we got it. 3 years later when before the Olympics I heard of the Messi/Barcelona argument about him going to the Olympics I first discovered that football was actually an Olympic sport and thought to myself what an amazing prospect, a one-off occasion where all the home nations could play together. Unfortunately that all changed when the FAW announced its view of a British team. Although I am British, first and foremost I am Welsh and anything that could lead to the detriment of Wales I’m against, and we’ll have to agree to disagree because In my opinion a British team does put the home nations individually at risk, and a successful British team will only enhance the chances.

  6. Pedronski says:

    Football Team GB, I just don’t care…

    • The Gaffer says:

      Pedronski, are you British or do you live in the UK? Just wondering, to get a better perspective on why you don’t care about Team GB.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  7. dust says:

    what no GB vs senegal Open thread, Ouch…Team BG gets no respect.

    • The Gaffer says:

      My bad on that one. I completely forgot to post it. Will do an open thread for Team GB games moving forward. Thanks!

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  8. dust says:

    Bellamy scores! 1-0 GB

  9. Fog says:

    Is anyone else disappointed with NBC’s coverage thus far? I am not impressed with Arlo White as a lead announcer. During yesterday’s US Women’s game, Brandi Chastain couldn’t get a word in edgewise…And this morning they joined the Morocco v Honduras game after the kickoff and didn’t even give the starting lineups.

    Tell White this is the Olympics not the EPL…this is not an EPL season wrap-up broadcast.

    Plus, I hate when the commentators are in the studio…which other than White…they are located in New York.

    ‘Nuf ranting…

    • dust says:

      This coverage is poor

    • The Gaffer says:

      I watched the USA-France game yesterday online, and the live commentary wasn’t working for most of the match — so all you could hear were the players and crowd, which I liked as a change. I watched the Team GB women against New Zealand, and didn’t mind the commentary from JP Dellacamera. I haven’t had a chance to watch today’s matches, but I’d be interested in hearing other people’s opinions too about the commentary.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Fog says:

      To me, Arlo White comes across as an arrogant Piers Morgan clone. Not kind, but that’s the way he affects me. I ended up just fast forwarding through the Team GB match just to avoid his commentary.

      • Fog says:

        OK, I just watched the US v Colombia women’s soccer game and I will give credit…the commentary was much more on point and far less offensive as I described in my previous two posts…whether it is me having a better day or and adjustment by Arlo White, I don’t know…but bottom line – the presentation was much better. Brandi Chastain was able to participate as a commentator, which she had difficulty doing in the US v France match.

  10. Pete says:

    It seemed strange watching the Butcher’s apron come out at Old Trafford, I’m not sure the crowd know what to chant/sing either

  11. Pete says:

    Dirty team this Senegal, two footed tackles every minute

  12. Pete says:

    How these lot have finished with 11 players I don’t know

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