(WFI) FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke is urging the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Football Associations to make their players available for the London 2012 Olympic football tournament.

The three FAs have expressed a reluctance to field players for a united Team GB side at the Games amid fears it will damage their independent status in the eyes of world football’s governing body.

Valcke again offered reassurances to the associations that
FIFA will not take such a dim view.

British Olympic Association CEO Andy Hunt (left) unveiled Stuart Pearce (right) as coach of the Team GB side in October. (ATR)

“Let the players play. If they want to play, let them. For the players, when you are 20, 21, 23 it’s a dream. And that’s what we have to respect,” he told BBC Sport.

Valcke called for the three FAs to ditch their fears. “You can always understand [their concerns] but you still hope that… we should forget about these problems when you’re talking about an event like the Olympic Games,” he said.

“There’s a team and this team should be composed by the four British associations,” the FIFA No. 2 added.

“We finalized an agreement between the four British associations and FIFA. It took a long time – there was a lot of exchange of letters and things said, and a lot of words used in this period. Now it’s up to the coach and the FA to finalize the composition of this
team.

“But it should be a representation of a country.”

Former England captain David Beckham and Manchester United star Ryan Giggs are among 184 of 191 players contacted by the English FA who have asked to be considered for selection for Team GB men’s Olympic football team. LA Galaxy player Beckham and the Welshman have publicly expressed their desire to play for the British team at the Games. Three overage players in the U-23 team are allowed.

Last June, the BOA struck an agreement with English FA to field a men’s
Olympic team for the first time in 52 years – since the Rome 1960 Games –
and a women’s side for the first time ever.

The announcement of the two Olympic football squads is expected in June.

The men’s squad will feature 18 players – 15 must be under 23-years-old,
with three ‘open age’ players. The women’s squad will also be comprised
of 18 players, but there are no age restrictions.

In his comments to BBC Sport, Valcke also underlined the strength of women’s football as he urged fans to snap up the thousands of Olympic football tickets that will go back on sale next month.

“The level of women’s football today is a top, top one and [London 2012 will be] a great tournament,” he said.

At London 2012, the men’s and women’s football competitions will include 16 and 12 teams respectively.

Team GB’s men’s team, coached by Stuart Pearce, will begin their campaign at Old Trafford on July 26.

Six stadia spread across the UK, including Manchester United’s ground and Wembley Stadium, will stage the men’s and women’s football competition at the Olympics.

The final place in the men’s Olympic tournament will be decided in a play-off match at the
City of Coventry Stadium on April 23. Senegal’s participation is already
confirmed after they finished in fourth place in the African qualifying
competition. Their opponents will be the fourth-placed team
from the Asian qualifying competition which concludes on March 29.

The official draw for the Olympic football tournament is scheduled for April 24 at Wembley.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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