Sports­man­ship, re­spect, emo­tion and hu­mil­ity at fam­ily-friendly Olympic events a breath of fresh air com­pared to bile, big­otry and trib­al­ism at top-level football

Midweek Sport - - THURSDAY AUG 9 -

TEAM GB’s pre­dictable penalty shoot-out exit from the men’s football event at the Olympic Games seemed to sneak un­der the radar as our heroes of track and field rightly hogged the lime­light.

The Lon­don 2012 Olympic Games has been a real eye-opener for football on a num­ber of lev­els. One, it shows just what can be achieved when mod­ern sports meth­ods are em­braced rather than sneered at.

The rev­o­lu­tion in British cy­cling con­tin­ued apace with medals won and records bro­ken.

That’s the re­ward for the con­ti­nu­ity that has ex­isted in the sport in the 14 years since lottery fund­ing was in­tro­duced.

Lessons have been learned, knowl­edge banked and ex­per­tise tapped into.

It makes a mock­ery of football on these is­lands, which only now is recog­nis­ing its faults and try­ing to ad­dress it.

Even then, in Eng­land’s case, hav­ing for­ward think­ing at the bot­tom and Roy Hodgson at the top makes lit­tle sense. he at­mos­phere at the Games has also been one to be­hold. So far we’ve wit­nessed truly fam­ily-friendly events, stripped of the bile and the big­otry that con­tin­ues to flow like a dirty river through top-level football.

It was telling that one of the few un­savoury mo­ments of the Games should come in men’s football – the boo­ing of Luis Suarez (be­low) when he faced Team GB, an act that those re­spon­si­ble could not even sup­press for Uruguay’s na­tional an­them.

At the best of times, it should be con­demned, in the Premier League it’s ac­cepted, in this con­text – an event where sports­man­ship, hu­mil­ity and re­spect reigned – it was ex­posed for what it is: petty, small-time trib­al­ism.

It was all a bit sad

Tre­ally and a mo­ment per­haps when football should have looked it­self in the mir­ror and been dis­gusted by what it saw.

For those not fa­mil­iar with ath­let­ics, cy­cling, judo, bad­minton and the rest, the TV in­ter­views with the sports­men and women have also been like a breath of fresh air com­pared to the stale soundbites of football.

Gone is the at­ti­tude, the clichéd re­sponses born of me­dia train­ing and the gen­eral air of dis­in­ter­est that seems to plague ev­ery foot­baller in­ter­view. In their place came traits too of­ten miss­ing in football-re­lated one to ones – hon­esty, real emo­tion and some much­needed hu­mil­ity.

That’s not to say foot­ballers aren’t ca­pa­ble of all of that.

In fact, one of the quotes of the Lon­don 2012 Games so far came from a foot­baller.

Asked if Bri­tain could beat Brazil if they got past South Korea (which of course they didn’t), Craig Bel­lamy an­swered: “That is you English. You look too far ahead. “That is what you lot do. That’s why you strug­gle. “I watch Eng­land fans some­times and see the way they re­act and think, ‘Be care­ful, you could go out in the next game’.

“It is bril­liant that football can gen­er­ate that buzz. But also there is luck.

“Even go­ing into in­jury-time in our Team GB game the other night, I didn’t think we were through.

“I am Welsh. I don’t think we are go­ing to come sec­ond in the tour­na­ment or what­ever – I just want to try to beat South Korea.” That’s an­other les­son to be learned right there.

With all this fresh in the mind, can we can we ex­pect any­thing dif­fer­ent from football play­ers, football fans and the football au­thor­i­ties next sea­son?

Sim­ple an­swer. Can we bol­locks.

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