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Clarets Blog: Football’s battle of Great Britain
HANDS up if you’ve been thinking about what event you could enter at the next Olympics?
Go on, admit it. We’ve all been debating whether we’d be any good at handball or archery – depending on our cardiovascular capacity – by the time Rio 2016 comes around.
‘Inspire a generation’ is the logo attached to London 2012. The next generation is what they had in mind. The legacy.
But people of all ages, shapes and sizes have been gripped by having the Games on home soil, and encouraged to take a more active role in sport.
‘Super Saturday’ was arguably the most defining moment, with six gold medals – three the magic number in track and field.
The sight of our sportsmen and women going, or throwing, the distance and coming out atop a podium has stirred the emotions of a nation.
In the process, football has taken a back seat. While Mo Farah was finishing first in the 10,000m and heptathlete Jessica Ennis was collecting gold – after Greg Rutherford was crowned Olympic long jump champion – Team GB were on their way out of the men’s football event. On penalties, somewhat typically.
And yet we didn’t really bat an eyelid. We were too engrossed in everything else. Women’s football was gaining wider appeal.
Despite being on the eve of a new season – and a potentially enthralling one for our region in the Championship – most of us are preparing for an Olympic hangover.
The beautiful game had better watch out, because minority sports have suddenly become much more attractive.
The XXX Olympiad has prompted new passions, and emphasised problems with our national game that, previously, we have perhaps chosen to ignore.
Our relationship with football has become an increasingly difficult one over recent years – particularly in times of recession, where people are spending hard-earned money that could be put to more practical use on following a team packed with players who earn significantly bigger sums.
It is, of course, a personal choice – one many people make, and on the whole don’t mind doing so as long as they are getting value for money; as long as they are getting effort and commitment to the cause.
It’s a message that Burnley manager Eddie Howe has hammered home to his players ever since he took charge at Turf Moor.
If supporters can see players putting in the hard yards, giving their all, they will be behind them, whatever the outcome.
But in the wider football world the game could be facing a backlash.
In years gone by players used to live in the towns where they played and have interaction with supporters. These days they are largely untouchable; unanswerable to any indescretions on or off the pitch. I don’t wish to tar all with the same brush, but that’s generally how it is, particularly at the top level.
Olympians appear more dedicated, but at the same time more grounded, more down to earth.
They are not paid handsome fees to participate in their chosen field.
Any money they do earn comes largely from sponsorship deals and, in some cases, public appearances or advertising campaigns.
When their performance has gone wrong, they have fronted up.
They have not bypassed the media, or been evasive, like Arsene “I didn’t see it” Wenger.
They have tried to defy injuries, not use them as an excuse to avoid participation.
When they speak they are open. It makes them seem much more real.
Rowers Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter could barely stand or even speak after winning silver in the lightweight men’s double skulls, but felt the need to apologise to the nation for not winning.
“We feel like we’ve let everyone down,” said Hunter. Struggling for breath, it made for uncomfortable viewing.
Some felt the BBC were wrong for speaking to the duo so soon.
But it served to highlight you only get out of life what you put in. No pain, no gain.
They, and others, have put the Great back into Britain.
It’s time for football to restore the appeal of the beautiful game.
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