Home nations fighting losing battle

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If the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh football associations felt their stand against their players participating as part of the Great Britain Olympic football team during next summer's London games was gathering momentum, the last seven days has shown them their campaign is far from a fully fledged success.

Last week, a photo of Gareth Bale, the Tottenham Hotspur and Wales winger, was released with him wearing the Team GB supporters shirt for the tournament.

Less than seven days later the problems continue to mount for the opposing FAs as Bale's north London rival and international colleague Aaron Ramsey has been pictured wearing the same shirt.

The move is more significant than the pair fulfilling an sponsorship obligation. It's a signal for the first time from the players that not only do they want to be part of next summer's tournament, but that, like the taking and publishing of the photo, there's nothing their footballing governing body can do to stop them.

Both Ramsey and Bale have previous stated their desire to compete next summer while at the same time seemingly waiting for permission from their association. The respective images is the first indication that the duo will go over their heads to get what they want.

You find it difficult to not appreciate where each of the associations are coming from in their demands for their players not to participate.

Each country worries that if reunited as Team GB for the first time since 1960 that each country will lose their independence as individual football nations with FIFA. If each's readiness to establish their own governmental system if anything to go by, you'll understand why their status, even as a mere footballing nation, holds vital importance.

FIFA have assured each of the nations that their independence will be intact come the resumption of the international football calendar, but given the world governing body's currently reputation, you can understand why the home nations are hesitant.

The FAs from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can't legally object to their players taking part and as Lionel Messi showed in 2008 when a legal wrangle with Barcelona eventually allowed him to play for Argentina, the clubs are likely to be powerless as well.

To attempt to prevent their players from featuring, the three governing bodies have said participating will affect their future international appearances.

It's a bold threat, but frankly, one they'll never be able to enforce.

All three nations either rely on one or two individual stars or young protege's coming through the ranks. The fact is that none of these country's have the resources to leave out their prized assets if they have any ambitions of enhancing their reputation as an international force.

Hence the likes of Bale and Ramsey, the leading lights for Wales, or Darren Fletcher of Scotland should have no worries about reclaiming their international places. Their country's can't survive without them.

If the three associations didn't know it already, their hopes of protecting their players from next summer's Olympics is turning into a losing battle.

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Aaron Ramsey
Gareth Bale

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