• Bunce on Olympics

Time Olympic football got serious

Steve Bunce July 28, 2012
Team GB could only draw with Senegal on Thursday © Getty Images
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The Dream Team was invented in 1992 for the basketball faithful. The millionaires beat Angola and other strong nations. In an alternative basketball universe, Angola could play Malta and it would be a tight call.

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One American pal of mine, embarrassed by the string of massacres inflicted by the increasingly gloating Dream Team, quietly told me in Atlanta that he was not happy. He is also a liar.

There are other great teams like Team Australia in the pool, Team Bolt in the relay and Team Cuba in the boxing ring - and then there is Team GB's male football team. Now, I love an Olympics but I'm wary of outfits thrown together to fill holes - some of the tennis pairings will need to be introduced for the first time before going on court.

On Sunday at Wembley the GB men's football team face the mighty UAE. The dust-up with Senegal, which took place long before the flame was lit, left a few of Stuart Pearce's team of faded, unknown and dreaming players on a sick list. The arguments, the intransigence and the selection of the team seemed to go on forever and I have to wonder why we all got so upset?

The football was once a serious Olympic sport - it was, trust me - during the Cold War. Starting in 1952 and lasting until 1980, that is eight Olympics, the football champions all came from the Eastern Bloc, as did seven of the losing finalists. A GB team of real amateurs, mostly milkmen from Scunthorpe, occasionally went out to some distant field and were duly slaughtered in the Olympic football tournament by 11 East German Stasi officers - they always claimed to be bakers.

The British football team gave up trying to get to the Games after 1972, but that all changed when fantasies about David Beckham and Ryan Giggs linking up started to circulate. It was just a fantasy and Beckham was relegated to a James Bond-lite role. Giggs is struggling on, bless him.

Football will survive any further culls and rightly so, but I would like to see a return to the days of non-professionals; it would mean that Olympic football would contain proper Dream Teams and not a collection of professionals having a laugh.

The other Dream Team, by the way, is on the way out and there are real plans to use only college players in the American basketball team in Rio. There is hope yet for mighty Angola.

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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.