With the Olympic games only days away, the excitement is growing and for the first time since 1972 Great Britain will have a football team competing for gold.
The first ever Olympic football tournament that gave out medals to the victors took place at the London Olympics in 1908. Eight teams were due to participate but Hungry and Bohemia, now present day Czech Republic, had to withdraw from the competition due to “political reasons”.
The reaming 6 teams that competed for the Gold were Great Britain, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden and two teams from France, France A & France B. Now although it was Great Britain by name the squad was in fact the Amateur England side but the kit had the Union jack rather than the national flag.
The Netherlands got free passage into the Semi-Final as they were due to face Hungry and France A also walked into the Semi’s as they were due to face Bohemia. The remaining fixtures of the saw Denmark dismantle France B 9-0 and Great Britain demolished Sweden 12-1.
In the Semi-Finals Great Britain beat the Netherlands 4-0 with Harold Stapley scoring all four goals. In the other Semi France A faced the team that destroyed France B, Denmark. You would have thought that France A would face better than France B and would be out to regain some pride for their country, but the Dane’s were just too much for them winning by probably the biggest margin in any competition of this level. Denmark ran out as clear winning beating France A 17-1 with Sophus Nielsen 10 goals. I think that also has to be a record. If Messi can break that this season then hats off to him.
For the Bronze the Netherlands beat Sweden 2-0 with the final contested against Great Britain and Denmark. Great Britain won the Gold beating Denmark 2-0 with goals from Frederick Chapman and Vivian Woodward.
What some of you may not know but before the World Cup was the competition that crowned a nation as the world’s best it was in fact the Olympic Games that would settle it. So with Great Britain winning the gold they were crowned as the worlds best national football team.
The following Olympics were more difficult with more teams competing, eleven in total. Due to the numbers the first round only saw three matches. The second round saw Great Britain, again the English amateur team, face Hungry. Great Britain beat the Hungarians 7-0 progressing to the Semi-Final were they faced and bear Finland4-0. Reaching the final Great Britain faced old foe Denmark, and although they fair better this time round, Denmark were unable to beat Great Britain losing 4-2. Great Britain were again gold medallists and regarded as the best team in the world.
This was a period of great superiority, but with the great game still finding it feet, there was a lot of ambiguity between Fifa and the Olympics and clubs that there professionals and amateurs. Never the less the England national and England amateur sides were the best in the world. They travelled Europe going unbeaten and found their hardest test nearest home. Between 1906 and 1910 England and the England Amateurs went unbeaten for 36 games, with their streak coming to an end thanks to oldest rivals Scotland. Impressively in that 36 unbeaten run there were 23 consecutive wins.
As time moved on football grew ever bigger and the other countries grew stronger and stronger and England would have to wait until 1966 to be crowned champions of the world again, and they have been fighting for the crown back ever since.