Friedel: Players should seize Olympic chance

MANCHESTER - Aston Villa's U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel urged British players on Wednesday to grab the chance to feature in the 2012 Olympics and defy their national football associations.

A debate over the participation of players from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland alongside those from England in a combined British team has simmered since the Games were awarded to London in 2005.

The English Football Association will pick its players but the three other associations fear they will lose their independent status within governing body FIFA if they allow their players to take part, despite their membership being enshrined in FIFA's statutes.

Friedel, 39, who played in the Olympics in 1992 and 2000 as well as three World Cups, told delegates at the Soccerex business convention in Manchester that players like Wales's Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey or Jonny Evans of Northern Ireland would regret it if they did not play.

"I would advise them to play," said the keeper. "I would hope a lot of pressure would be put on those FAs not to keep them out. It is an experience they should not miss.

"When is it going to be here again? Not in our lifetimes, it is the Olympics, a world event. People have to take that into consideration.

"The Olympics are special, it is an under-23 tournament so you might not have the same talent there as at the World Cup, but for me an Olympic gold medal is right up there with a World Cup winner's medal."

No manager has yet been chosen for the combined British side but Alan Curbishley, the former West Ham United and Charlton Athletic manager, joked he was available.

On a more serious note he added: "I agree with Brad, we have got to find a sporting solution to this political problem.

"The Olympics will be just after Euro 2012 and will finish a week or two before the Premier League season starts but it will be a special, once-in-a-lifetime occasion and I would love to see a Great Britain team with Irish and Scots and Welsh win it."