A WARM WELCOME TO THE OLYMPICS FOR TEAM GB
By Jojo Rennie
With the much anticipated London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony upon us on Friday, we’ve already been given a taster of things to come. The Olympics have been hard to avoid in TV and print press over the last few months; cynicism and grumbling has been gradually hushed by a growing sense of passion and excitement amongst even the most unpatriotic of Brits. This afternoon saw the opening matches of the women’s football and I was particularly interested in the Great Britain match. Incorporating players from all the home nations, I was interested to see how not just the participants, but the crowd faired on this bigger, united stage.
There’s been talk in the media about the men’s GB team participating for the first time since 1960*, but the women’s GB team have slipped under the radar somewhat. The opener versus New Zealand was historic in itself; the first time GB have ever come to the Olympics with a women’s football team, and with these Games on home turf, the players understand how important opportunities like these are for the sport. Centre forward Aluko has stated, “[It’s] an honour and a privilege… [you’re] chosen to represent the country and lots of people are looking up to you to inspire them and be a role model.”
Last week the women’s GB team played a friendly against a solid Swedish outfit. The match, admittedly, didn’t set pulses racing, but it worked well enough for Powell to sufficiently test her team out before the big stage. It was a shame to see how desperately pathetic the crowd was; with cheap ticket sales (and the school holidays) it was disappointing to visibly notice the disparity between support for our female GB team and that of our male team. This game preceded the men’s GB friendly against Brazil and the early evening kick off on a weekday may have accounted for a reduced crowd. Of course, the stars of the men’s Brazil team, including the likes of Hulk and Neymar, would have attracted more attention than the relatively unknown stars from the women’s GB and Swedish sides. Nonetheless, it was certainly reassuring to see a slightly more bustling, vocal Cardiff crowd cheering on the women this afternoon in their 1-0 Olympic opener.
It is on stages of this magnitude, as well as at the Euros and World Cup, where players can help influence and encourage girls into the sport. Positive play and a strong team ethic in front of the home nations can surely do nothing but help the face of the sport in this country.
*Correction made, an earlier version of this article read 1972.