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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?

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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.
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