Singing at the Olympics
The British Olympic football team is comprised of thirteen English and five Welsh players, with no-one from Scotland or Northern Ireland being asked to partake. Prior to Team GB’s opening game of the Olympics against Senegal, it was decided that ‘God Save the Queen’ would be the national anthem sung by the players. The anthem was sung by everyone, well, almost everyone.
The four Welshman included in Stuart Pearce’s starting line-up against Senegal, captain Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Neil Taylor and Joe Allen refused to sing the anthem because of the fact that ‘God Save the Queen’ is the English national anthem. Predictably, most national newspapers, along with the British Olympic Association have expressed ‘outrage’ and ‘disgust’ at the Welsh players’ decision to stay silent while the anthem was played. But does it really matter? Is all of this ‘outrage’ blown way out of proportion? I suspect it is.
Some have said that they were representing Britain and therefore should have sang the anthem as a demonstration of respect and a sign of pride. But that doesn’t take into account the fact that Welsh football players were asked to sing the English national anthem, something that they were clearly going to be uncomfortable doing. How many English people would willingly sing the Welsh or Scottish anthems? I think it’d be hard to find any that would. On the subject of representing their nation, Ryan Giggs played a very good game, as usual, and Craig Bellamy scored the goal that gave Team GB the upper hand after twenty minutes, isn’t that representation enough? Even further than that, isn’t it good enough for people that Welsh players agreed to represent Great Britain in the first place, especially when the Welsh FA were so opposed to any Welsh players taking part?
The Welsh footballers weren’t the only ones to refuse to sing the national anthem; Kim Little and Ifeoma Dieke, both from Scotland, also refused to sing ‘God Save the Queen’ in Team GB women’s opening game against New Zealand. Kim Little stated that her refusal to sing the anthem was based on the fact that she is Scottish. Surely, it can’t be fair to ask players to sing the national anthem of another country. The refusal of these players to sing the anthem is perfectly understandable. There are, of course, other reasons for not wanting to sing an anthem; I, myself, refuse to sing ‘God Save the Queen’ because I’m an atheist and a republican, I’m also not that patriotic. It’s a personal choice, I don’t expect everyone else to agree with that choice and I’m perfectly happy for other people to sing the anthem if they choose to, but I would never ask someone to sing it if they really didn’t want to. So, does it really matter if the players refuse to sing the anthem? As long as they choose to play for Great Britain, and play well whilst doing it, that should be good enough for everyone.
This surely calls into question the very importance of the national anthems themselves. Are they really needed? The playing of the national anthem has no bearing whatsoever on how the players actually play. It’s not going to make them play any better. When watching your team, you want to see them play as well as they possibly can. Are you really bothered about whether the players sing beforehand? All of this is just a show of needless patriotism, that doesn’t need to be involved in football, or any sport for that matter.
There is no doubt that many eyes and ears will be fixed on Team GB’s men’s football team against United Arab Emirates on 29th July and the women’s next game against Cameroon on the 28th. Even more eyes and ears will be on the anthems.