I am a firm believer that men's football should not be in the Olympics in its current format (U23s plus 3 older players), if at all. Bar none, an Olympic event should have the best players in the world showing what, at its peak, the human body can achieve. By making the event limited in scope, it makes it sub standard and takes the edge off the pinnacle that the Olympics is meant to represent. Saying that, I was very excited to get my hands on some tickets for the first GB team since 1960.
The first game, Senegal vs Uruguay, was a shock win for the African team who showed plenty of spirit going down early to 10 men, but also hacked like Sunday league players. As Wembley slowly filled to capacity a positive and festival atmosphere grew as people cheered on anyone and everyone.
By the time the UAE vs GB game started (I keep on starting to type England, just like the odd section of the crowd who started chanting EN-GER-LAND EN-GER-LAND, before promptly stopping and moving to something more appropriate and less monotone), the whole place was buzzing. It was really noticeable how many more families and less loutish blokes there were then the normal Wembley game. A patriotic, yet unconfrontational air ruled, with Union Jacks everywhere being were waved and shaken at anything half decent that emanated from the team.
As it happened the team didn't do half bad, with the older Welsh players (Giggs and the impressive Bellamy) giving some structure and confidence to the young mostly English remainder of the team. A good goal early in the first half led to huge cheers and a general mood of satisfaction. As the game stretched on, the crowd's interest shifted from average football into decent Mexican waves and the odd comedy chant. This was though rudely interrupted by the UAE scoring quite a decent goal on the break 60 mins into the match. I mean how dare they. Had they not heard this was our party?
Suddenly everyone was chewing their nails and GB did their very best to throw it all away for the next 10 minutes, the UAE striker missing a sitter. Fortunately it all came good with a couple of quick goals from the GB subs, each greeted with huge cheers and the odd jig. The satisfied haze filtered back through the crowd and, at least in my section, it descended into a few thousand people trying to fit GB into Hey Jude (for future experience, it fits best into the chorus by replacing "Hey" with "G and "Jude" with "B").
All in all a gentle, pleasant introduction to the London 2012 Olympics. The game was not a big one, Football is barely a real Olympic sport, but no one really cared, as it was a great excuse to allow a whole lot of people to grab their bit of the Olympic experience and, for 90 per cent of the crowd, cheer on Team GB.
Stuck on Wembley way inching towards the tube, I glimpsed back and beheld thousands of happy punters pouring out from the great stadium, Olympic logo finery to each and every side and, of course, that magnificent arch blazoned across the night sky. Quite a spectacle.