LONDON – The bizarre scenario that Great Britain soccer fans could boo their own national anthem emerged as a serious and unsavory possibility Monday.
The British men's team's third and final group game against Uruguay Wednesday will be held in Wales – the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff – as part of the schedule that sees Olympic soccer matches rotated around the United Kingdom.
However, many Welsh fans see the British anthem of "God Save The Queen" as an English song and refuse to acknowledge it. GB captain and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs, himself a Welshman, has refused to sing the anthem at either of his squad's first two games.
And Giggs himself admitted he fears there could be a backlash when the side heads to Cardiff for a game it only needs a tie to progress to the quarterfinals.
"I hope the national anthem won't get booed," Giggs said. "And I hope the fans get behind us.
"I don't sing the national anthem, but that is a personal thing."
The possibility of the booing has effectively been created by the differences in the way the different areas of the United Kingdom arrange themselves for sports. In soccer, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete separately, but the Olympics competition is undertaken as one combined team. Typically Great Britain does not field a soccer team at the Games, but did so this time due to London being the host.
When Wales and England squared off in Cardiff in past international soccer tournaments, "God Save The Queen" was booed on both occasions.
For Wales soccer matches, the team uses a different anthem called "Men of Harlech" before games instead of the British anthem that pays homage to the monarch, and James Bond's new friend, Queen Elizabeth II.
It is hoped that the Olympic spirit, combined with the fact that Olympic soccer crowds are generally more family-based affairs instead of being filled with soccer hardliners, will temper any dissent from the stands.
However, it is an issue of concern to organizers, who fear the negative publicity that would be caused by any voicing of unpatriotic sentiment in a large stadium and in front of a global audience.
"Obviously that is something that would be reported around the world," a Games source said. "It would be very unfortunate but there is not much you can do apart from rely on people's good will during Olympic time."
"If you announce a message asking people not to, it will just incite a few idiots to do it even more."
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Giggs is now 38 and is one of the three over-age players allowed on the GB squad, which, like all other Olympic teams, features players 23 or under. His appointment as captain, given that he is Wales' most popular and famous athlete in any sport, may act to counterbalance any unwanted booing.
London's organizers certainly hope so, as they wait nervously for Wednesday's game.
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