Britain’s football team should be set up to reconcile ‘bitter divisions’ between nations, says Times sports columnist

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The last time Britain fielded a men’s football team at the 2012 Olympics. Photo by Gerry Balding (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

A British football team should be created to reconcile the “bitter divisions” between the different nations of the United Kingdom, a Times said the sports columnist.

Matthew Syed argued that “football is exceptionally important in fomenting and expressing a sense of national identity” and asked if he was the only one who wanted international football to be “a source of shared pride rather than a division (often) bitter?”

“Isn’t it fascinating that at a time when our Union seems under long-term threat and with the rise of constituent nationalisms, we are the only officially recognized political jurisdiction on earth that is divided by football?” He asked.

Unlike the Olympics which were “triumphs that we could celebrate together, cherish together, remember together”, he said, “football does not and cannot play that unifying role”.

“In the late 1990s and beyond, I always felt discouraged that Ryan Giggs was not eligible to fill the gaping hole left of midfield for a United British side,” he said.

“Yes, we would have been better off together.”

‘Like combining Rangers and Celtic’

The column drew a predictable negative response from Welsh football fans, with Welsh broadcaster Elis James responding by saying he “deeply disagreed on every level”.

Even an occasional British team “would seriously weaken our status as an independent footballing nation (as well as the status of Scotland and Northern Ireland). Many FIFA members do not like our position on the IFAB and would like to see us compete as Team GB. This has been talked about since the early 1970s.”

Paddy Daley noted that “you cannot buy, copy, borrow or transfer” the “emotion” of supporting Wales to a British team.

Twitter user “Sei” said, “The use of ‘we’ here is quite telling, isn’t it? It’s like saying ‘imagine our team, England, could have grabbed someone from another country to solve this problem’.

Jem Tynrhos suggested different combinations. “I would like to see a France team from England… or a Germany team from England…. imagine how great that could be.

Charles Davies added: “What about combining Rangers and Celtic, and Man United and Man City?”

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