Exeter City - Saturday 28th April 2012

A couple of weeks ago against Charlton we had a look at a few things regarding UEFA EURO 2012, so this week it’s time to have a peek at the other big football tournament that takes place this summer, that is the Olympics at London 2012. Football at the Games of the XXX Olympiad being the only sporting event that commences before the opening ceremony takes place, with matches for women starting on 25th July and ending on 9th August, while the male competition runs from 26th July to 11th August, with both finals taking place at Wembley.

Just 12 teams will be taking to the field in the women’s tournament then with hosts Great Britain featuring alongside Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, New Zealand, North Korea, South Africa, Sweden and holders from Beijing 2008 the United States, Britain themselves being drawn in the group stages with Brazil, Cameroon and New Zealand. While the men’s competition, for which Beijing 2008 champions Argentina have failed to qualify, will be contested by 16 sides, in Great Britain, Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, Gabon, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, with Team GB set to face the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Senegal in their group matches.

Senegal having grabbed that last Olympic place on Monday evening of this week after they defeated Oman 2-0 in a qualifying play-off match at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, which, with stadium sponsor names being forbidden throughout the tournament, will be known as the City of Coventry Stadium for the duration of the competition. That situation also applying to the Sports Direct Arena which will revert back to being St James’ Park for a couple of weeks, while the other four venues remain name intact as Hampden Park, Millennium Stadium, Old Trafford and Wembley.

As far as the players are concerned it would seem to be a free for all in the women’s game with there being no age restrictions for female competitors in their squad of 18, while in the men’s version of the tournament, which is loosely labelled as being an under-23 competition, 15 players have to be born after the 1st of January 1989, with three over-age players also permitted to make up the 18-man squad. Four alternate players also allowed to be named who can be brought into the squad if an existing player becomes injured and unable to play for the duration of the tournament.

Perhaps surprisingly meanwhile officiating the games will be referees and their assistants from all four corners of the globe, FIFA’s Referees Committee appointing 84 whistlers from 36 countries across the two separate tournaments, with all six of FIFA’s Confederations covered. No officials from the United Kingdom being involved in the officiating of the women’s games, while only three will be keeping an eye out in the men’s matches, that trio being referee Mark Clattenburg and assistants Stephen Child and Simon Beck. The bare facts being that are more officials from Mexico, with five, than there are from the UK, which doesn’t make any sense to me at all, even simply from a financial perspective.

After the Olympics of course comes the Paralympics, with two different football tournaments taking place between the 31st of August and the 9th of September at the temporary build Riverbank Arena, located within the Olympic Park. The two separate competitions, both involving men only in eight national teams, being a five-a-side tournament for visually impaired athletes using a ball with a noise-making device inside, in which only the goalkeeper is allowed to be fully or partially sighted, and a seven-a-side competition played by athletes with cerebral palsy.

Team GB having a side, with the squad consisting of ten players in the fives and twelve in the sevens, in both tournaments as hosts, with the Head Coach of the five-a-side team being former Carlisle defender of the early 1980's Tony Larkin. Another Cumbrian connection coming through the fact that Warwick Bridge-based referee Scott Henry, who used to work at the James Rennie School, will be officiating in the cerebral palsy matches, although the forename Scott will be more likely linked during the tournament to seven-a-side player Martin Sinclair, who is the brother of Swansea’s pacey frontman Scott Sinclair.

The main attention of course though will be linked to whoever turns out for the men’s team in the Olympics, with no players who make the journey to Poland and Ukraine for UEFA EURO 2012 this summer being eligible for selection. David Beckham the probable, and extremely marketable more to the point, big name touted for one of the three over-age spots with Team GB boss Stuart Pearce seemingly set to announce his eagerly awaited 18-man squad in mid-May, well ahead of the official deadline of the 9th of July.