Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney could represent Team GB at the Olympic Games
THE Football Association has opened the door for Wayne Rooney to compete at the London Olympics.
Even if the Manchester United striker does emerge from suspension to represent England at Euro 2012, the FA has altered its policy and will allow players to perform at both summer tournaments.
Stuart Pearce’s Team GB could have a United feel with the coach admitting that he would also look at Wales’s Ryan Giggs.
David Beckham, Giggs’s former team-mate, is another strong candidate for the three over-age (23 plus) spots in the 18-man squad.
Scotland’s Darren Fletcher and Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans are also in contention.
Sir Alex Ferguson will doubtless be asked his view of losing members of his United squad during pre-season.
The FA still awaits Uefa’s written reasons into Rooney’s three-game ban following his expulsion for kicking Montenegro's Miodrag Dzudovic.
England’s manager, Fabio Capello, wants to pick Rooney for the Euros and even if the striker eventually features in Poland and Ukraine, he could also play in the Olympics.
“We are aware of the challenges it would present any player to play in both,’’ said Adrian Bevington, the managing director of Club England.
“But we are not going to lock ourselves into a situation where we say if you go to one, you can’t go to another.’’
For a tournament intended to celebrate sport’s purest traits, the Olympics certainly stirs up a murky mill-pond of politics.
Get ready for nine months of club-versus-country, United and Arsenal having issues with GB over the likes of Rooney and Jack Wilshere, and even country-versus-country.
The FA indicated that it would support those Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland footballers who want to compete in the Olympics but whose national associations disapprove.
Fearful of losing influence in Fifa’s corridors of power, the three other home nations are considering dissuading their players from playing in the Olympics.
Scarcely had Pearce posed for the cameras at Wembley yesterday than a missile of a missive was being launched out of Hampden.
“The Scottish FA reiterates its opposition to taking part in Team GB,’’ read the statement.
“We have been consistently clear in our position and, in particular, the threat it poses to our independent membership of Fifa and also our representation on the International Football Association Board.”
The FA’s chairman, David Bernstein, played down the other Home Nations’ concerns.
“Fifa has stated it will not affect their independence and we sincerely hope that is the case,’’ Bernstein said.
Pearce took the dressing-room perspective, arguing that clubs and countries should accept footballers’ views.
“The players will dictate their availability,’’ the former England international said. “I think the players will be very, very excited and they will dictate to clubs.
"It is well documented my situation with Arsenal and Jack Wilshere [over Under-21 selection] but this is Team GB, a totally different team, a fantastically high-profile tournament in the biggest sporting event in the world.
"It’s the first time in 52 years we have put a team in.’’
Pearce, turning conciliatory, acknowledged that: “Dialogue with clubs and players will be important.’’
He then tried to soften the blow. “The Olympics are in July, all the (club) teams will be back in pre-season training and playing friendlies, so all we are offering maybe is very high-profile pre-season friendlies for individuals concerned.”
The Hearts winger, Andrew Driver, who briefly played for England Under-21s under Pearce before offering his services to Scotland, described the possibility of inclusion in the Olympic 18 as “an unbelievable opportunity”.
Driver added that “the Olympics is something that people work their whole careers for so the chance to play in that would be amazing. I don’t really know what the SFA is saying.”
The FA expects to consult representatives of other players who could get caught up in the politics like the two Welsh talents, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale of Spurs.
The BOA and FA are particularly keen on Beckham’s involvement as two million tickets have yet to be sold for the football competitions (although that figure includes the women’s event).
While Hope Powell focuses on the women’s team, Pearce has a huge call to make on the men’s 18: does he select the best squad or the most politically correct one, including non-English and veterans like Beckham?
“I don’t feel obliged to pick anybody, even English,’’ Pearce insisted. “I will look at form and fitness of individuals to have a good tilt at winning it. You go with your strongest team.’’
As for Giggs, Pearce said: “I wouldn’t close the door on anyone, if you are talking about an individual of Ryan’s ability that’s for sure.’’
Pearce was insistent that fans would get behind the GB concept.
He was at Wembley during Euro 96 when home fans cheered Patrick Kluivert’s consolation against England because it kept the Dutch in and knocked Scotland out.
“This is Team GB, a total stand-alone tournament,’’ Pearce said. “I expect the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish to get behind the team.
"I support the Scottish football team, I want them to get to major tournaments. I think the British public will get behind it.”
The time-scale involves a long-list of players being submitted in November and a shortlist in the spring.
The final squad will be named on July 9 with a friendly on July 16. Just to complete the complicated political picture, if Rio Ferdinand wants to be considered, he would have to appeal his past drugs ban to the BOA.
Olympics and football: never simple.