Football kicks back against Olympic critics after Games
Young stars of Team GB learned from London 2012, but defend their sport's honour
SEVERAL members of the Team GB football squad who played in the Olympics are set to don England shirts on Wednesday as the national team take on Italy in a an international friendly. And as the football season approaches they, along with football writers, have begun to fight back against critics who say that the Olympics have put football to shame.
Roy Hodgson has chosen to blood some young players in tomorrow’s game. Among them are Olympic keeper Jack Butland, aged 19, who is set to become England's youngest-ever stopper. Manchester United's Tom Cleverley (pictured) is likely to feature in midfield and Olympic defenders Ryan Bertrand and Steven Caulker are also in the squad.
In the build-up to the game Cleverley, who spent time in the Olympic Village, said he was impressed by the "sportsmanship and the respect everyone had for another" at London 2012 but rejected the idea that other Olympians had raised the bar for British footballers in terms of dedication.
He told Metro: "The other athletes are unbelievably dedicated but so are footballers... it was good to see how other athletes prepared [but] I wouldn’t say it was better or worse than we are used to."
Talking to The Guardian, Butland said the Olympic experience had highlighted the "borderline between confidence and arrogance" and accepted that footballers sometimes overstepped the mark.
But he said only a few people had given footballers a bad name. "You just need to be very careful what you say and how things are worded and how things are done. Not a lot of people step over that line but... it's a very fine line which, if you do overstep it, can upset or annoy people."
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter argued that it was time to stop looking down on football. "Football can learn from the Olympics, from the humility of most of the participants, yet some spectacularly naive comments tumble forth from those who have been camping too long in the enchanted garden of the Olympic Village," he said.
The sport has always aroused jealousy, dislike and snobbery, Winter added. "Those who perceive the situation as black and white, as football being a den of iniquity compared to the spotless International Olympic Committee domain, suffer from a blurred vision. No sport can boast a pristine reputation."
Oliver Kay in The Times points out that footballers are often under more pressure off the field than those in minority sports. The Team GB contingent in the England squad will hope to prove that they "have been enriched by the Olympic experience".
But he warns: "Nobody, though, will be hailing them as Olympians if they fail to fulfil their potential or if they appear on the gossip pages once too often. It is not, you see, an entirely level playing field."