Friedel Claims FA’s Preventing Olympic Participation is a ‘Travesty’

April 1, 2011

English Premier League club Aston Villa’s veteran American goalkeeper Brad Friedel has claimed it would be a “travesty” if British players were denied the chance to compete in the London 2012 Olympic soccer tournament, speaking on a panel discussing a unified British team for next year’s Games, at the Soccerex European Forum.

Debate over Team GB has raged ever since the Olympics were awarded to London, with the Home Associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland steadfastly refusing to release players for fear of losing their national identities within FIFA.

But Friedel, who has played in England since 1997 and has twice competed in the Olympics in 1992 and 2000, said he could not understand the anti-Team GB lobby, stating: “As an American growing up, the Olympics is the pinnacle of all sports.

“It was very different feeling from the three World Cups I have been fortunate to play in. For a player to miss out on the experience of playing in an Olympics would be terrible. It’s not just the actual games you play in, it’s the entire learning experience. 

“You get to be around the other sportsmen and women. It’s difficult to put into words how important the Olympics are as a growing experience. To miss out on it would be a travesty.”

Freidel continued to urge any players selected for London 2012 to defy pressure from their domestic federations not to take part, adding: “I would advise them to play. I’d like to think sport will prevail over politics.

“I think if they are left out, in the future, because of that decision, they would regret it. I would hope a lot of pressure would be put on those FAs not to keep them out. 

“It is an experience they should not miss. When is the Olympics going to be here again? 

“It is a world event. People have to take that into consideration and stop thinking about themselves.”

Friedel, now 39, claims there should not even be a debate, saying: “I thought the issue would be resolved straight after the Games were awarded to London. Instead we have to let the powers that be decide.”

Although the Olympic football event is primarily an under-23 competition, Friedel said it still had enormous credibility: “The Olympics are special,” adding “You might not have the same talent as at the World Cup, but for me an Olympic gold medal is right up there with a World Cup winners medal.”