Powell preaches hope for GB women
31 July, London 2012 (Group E): GB v Brazil (Wembley, 7.45)
Hope Powell is not the kind of coach who gives much away or suffers fools gladly. Ask a silly question and, in response, you’ll more than likely get a pained expression and perhaps a curt answer. So when she almost drools about the Olympic experience, the honour of being an Olympian, you should listen to her.
Powell takes the GB women’s football team into their final Group E match against Brazil – a Brazil just as mighty as their male counterparts – at Wembley tonight. Though she might have played at the old “Venue of Legends” twice in her playing career with England, most of her 18-strong squad have little or no first-hand knowledge of the world-famous venue.
“The Olympic experience is unique,” Powell said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you can’t enjoy it as a player or member of staff, you shouldn’t be involved in sport. This game certainly warrants the build-up and the attention. It shows women’s football is in the spotlight. The players are really pleased. They have really enjoyed the attention and the coverage, they have risen to the occasion. It is a very new experience for us and we are enjoying every moment.”
GB’s ladies have also enjoyed meeting and having their photographs taken with David Beckham and Prince William at Wembley on Sunday, when the GB men defeated UAE 3-1. They have also received a message of support from Dame Kelly Holmes. “David had sent me a few emails beforehand, which I passed on to the girls,” Powell said. “I’m not sure they believed me.
“On Sunday, I told them he was going to try and see them in the Village. They went crazy but I was just joking! But to actually meet him, they were absolutely made up. They combed their hair about a thousand times and put their lipstick on. Those are one-off moments that you will treasure forever.
“Dame Kelly said we are not just footballers, we are now Olympians. That really stuck with the girls. We have used that as a reminder. The whole Olympic life, striving for brilliance and excellence, it just rubs off. It’s surreal at times. In the Village, you have this mini-world of different athletes and you think: ‘I wonder what that person does?’
“When we talk about [Olympic] legacy, participation, showcasing the sport, what a stage to do that on. We want to drive participation. We want to increase numbers in women’s football. We want more of everything – more support for the game, more girls playing. This gives us a great opportunity to showcase the talent. All the media attention we have had so far will encourage people to get involved in the sport and recognise that we are a sport of value.”
GB, after beating New Zealand 1-0 and Cameroon 3-0, have qualified for the Olympic quarter-finals. As have Brazil, who defeated Cameroon 5-0 and New Zealand 1-0. GB need to overcome Brazil tonight to win the group and clinch a potentially favourable last-eight draw against the best third-placed team from Group F or G. Should Brazil not lose, GB will meet the runners-up from Group F.
However much the Olympic football dream fails to enthrall you, if you consider that the battle for gold, silver and bronze is no more than an occasional and lame four-yearly fad, the GB women – and many of their peers – would appear to beg to differ.
Other women’s matches today: Group E: New Zealand v Cameroon (City of Coventry Stadium, 7.45). Group F: Japan v South Africa (Millennium Stadium, 2.30), Canada v Sweden (St James’ Park, 2.30). Group G: USA v North Korea (Old Trafford, 5.15), France v Colombia (St James’ Park, 5.15).