Arsenal’s Olympic footballers – heroes and the future

As we have seen, the relationship of the FA in the home nations with the Olympics has been a twitchy affair. This was touched upon briefly during the discussion on GN5’s fantastic post on the first Football World Cup in 1930, and subsequently in my posts.

Football was played at the Olympics for the first time in the 1900 Summer Olympics. Two demonstration matches were held between the three club sides. Upton F.C. represented team GB and won. Likewise, the competition in the 1904 Games was also between club sides.

National teams competed for the first time in 1908, though France had two teams. Great Britain won in 1908 and in the following Olympic Games in 1912 as well. We have revisited this part of the Olympics football history earlier.

When the Olympics returned after the war in 1920, Norway defeated Great Britain in the first round. There was great disquiet with the FA and the IOC falling out with each other over the participation of professionals. Ironically, even if Norway were not a professional side, there were good grounds for complaint.

In 1921, the Belgium Football Association first allowed for payments to players for time lost from work, followed by Switzerland and Italy amongst others. In 1923, the Football Association requested FIFA to consider their statement of 1884 as a criterion for selection: “Any player registered with this Association … receiving remuneration … of any sort above … necessary expenses actually paid, shall be considered to be a professional.” FIFA refused, and consequently, Great Britain and Denmark withdrew their participation in football at the 1924 Olympic Games.

Subsequently a rift between FIFA and the IOC developed, and in turn led to the establishment of the Football World Cup. After clarification of amateur status, team GB participated in Olympics football again in 1936, and after the war, in 1948, 1952, 1956 and 1960. Great Britain did not participate in the football competition for 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games. In fact, after the FA abolished the distinction between amateur and professional players in 1974, it stopped entering a team.

Prior to 1984, men’s Olympic football was only played by amateur players. By the 1992 Games teams could use professionals, but were restricted to players under 23 years old, with only three over-age players allowed per squad. This is the setting for this final part of the story of Arsenal Olympians.

Sadly, however, a new crisis emerged. Since 1992, the UEFA U21 Championship has acted as the qualifying tournament for the UEFA nations, which each of the Home Nations enter. On three occasions, teams from Great Britain have finished in the qualifying positions: Scotland (1992 and 1996) and England (2008). However, the Scottish FA refused to field a team in 1992 and 1996 because such a team would have to participate as Great Britain, which they considered as detrimental to the independent status of Scottish national teams. Likewise, the English FA refused to field a team in 2008.

A century from the start of this story, Great Britain qualified for the 2012 Games and fielded an Olympics football team at home. This team had a substantial Welsh presence, prominently featuring our very own Welshman Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey scored a penalty during normal play and another during the penalty shootout in the quarter-finals, but the British team went out in penalties to South Korea, which also featured another Gooner.

Olympics 2012 Day 1 Men Football - Aaron Ramsey Together with the 5 (and a half) Gooners featured in the previous edition, Ramsey completes the story and celebration of Arsenal players’ contributions towards the Great Britain Olympics team. But what about our foreign players?

There are two stars of this show, the first being one Nwankwo Kanu, (born 1 August 1976), or simply Kanu, who became Arsenal’s third Olympic gold medallist in the 1996 Games. He was a member of and later captained the Nigerian national team for 16 years from 1994 until 2010. He is one of few players to have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal.


Kanu joined Arsenal from Inter in 1999. His debut for Arsenal, against Sheffield United in the FA Cup, was a highly unusual match. With the score 1–1 and ten minutes to go, the United goalkeeper, Alan Kelly, kicked the ball out of touch so that treatment could be given to an injured player. When the ball was thrown back into play by Ray Parlour, although it was intended for Kelly, Kanu was unaware of the circumstances. Thinking it to be an attacking move, he chased the throw-in down the right wing unchallenged, and centred the ball for Marc Overmars, who promptly scored to make the match 2–1. Immediately after the match Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger offered to right the error and replay the match; in the end, Arsenal won that match 2–1 as well.

Kanu quickly became known for his goalscoring prowess from the bench, and became very popular among the fans for his two-fingered salute – something that he later explained was based on the team’s nickname, The Gunners – which started in 1999 against Middlesbrough. Kanu was named African Footballer of the Year for the second time in 1999, and in 1999–2000 he scored 17 times in 50 matches for the Gunners, including a hatrick in fifteen minutes against Chelsea to turn a 2–0 deficit to a 3–2 victory. Kanu won the Double with Arsenal in 2002, an FA Cup in 2003 and the Premier League title in 2004. In all he played 197 games for Arsenal (nearly half of them as a substitute), scoring 44 goals. In the summer of 2004, he moved to West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer.

In 2008, Kanu was voted 13th in the “Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players” poll. As well as winning the Olympic gold in the football event at 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Kanu participated in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups.

The 5th and final Gooner to win an Olympics gold medal was Lauren (Etame Mayer). Commonly known as Lauren, he was one of the ‘Invincibles’. He also won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with Cameroon. Earlier the same year, he also played for the Cameroon team that won the Africa Cup of Nations.

Etame Mayer, Yao Aziawonou

Lauren joined Arsenal in the summer of 2000, just after his gold medal honour for Cameroon. Lauren’s first season with Arsenal was blighted by injuries. He eventually ended up becoming the club’s first-choice right back, replacing Lee Dixon. By the time Arsenal had won the Double in 2001–02, Lauren was an integral part of the Arsenal defence.

In 2002–03, Lauren suffered a calf injury and again missed part of the season, but nevertheless recovered in time and won an FA Cup winners medal. He was a consistent member of the Arsenal first team during 2003–04 and a became known as one of the ‘Invincibles’ after the club went the whole season unbeaten. Lauren made his 150th appearance for Arsenal during the record breaking run and Arsenal won the Premier League title, giving Lauren his second League winners’ medal.

Lauren won a third FA Cup winners’ medal in 2005, as Arsenal beat Manchester United on penalties after a 0–0 draw in the final; Lauren scored the first of Arsenal’s spot-kicks. However, during 2005–06, Lauren suffered a knee injury and spent nearly a year out of the game. He never played for Arsenal again. In January 2007, Lauren joined Portsmouth.

Better times were ahead though, playing in the Cameroon team that won the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations. He also played in the gold winning team at the 2000 Olympics, ironically against Spain, who could have selected him were it not for his choice of Cameroon.

And finally, here are Arsenal’s other Olympians. In the 1996 Olympic Games, the same year as Kanu won Olympic gold, two other future Arsenal players played for the French team: Robert Pirès and Sylvain Wiltord. Subsequently, 5 Gooners played for their respective countries in the 2008 Olympic Games: Alex Song for Cameroon, Thomas Vermaelen for Belgium, Gervinho for Côte d’Ivoire, Emiliano Viviano for Italy and

Park Chu-Young for South Korea. Park also represented South Korea in the 2012 Olympic Games, this time as one of the three over-age players in the team.

So, finally, here is the score sheet. 15 Olympians (6 from Great Britain) and 4 Olympic gold medallists (2 of them British). Could be better? Perhaps, if the FA wee to consider Olympic football as a means to develop young players.

This seems unlikely. As of Great Britain’s elimination from the 2012 Olympics, there are currently no public plans to reform the team for future Olympic Games. In fact, Alex Horne, in his role as chief-executive of the FA, has stated that the FA would not support a future men’s football team at the Olympics.

However, since other footballing nations, particularly non-European nations appear to consider the Olympics as important for youth development, perhaps this is a good space to watch for and spot future stars. Perhaps this is where some Gooners were watched as well. Where are the scouts?

Written by Arnie.




76 Responses to Arsenal’s Olympic footballers – heroes and the future

  1. This is such a good day to have this post as it’s Kanu’s birthday 🙂

    No one seems to have any idea how old he is ……….

  2. mickydidit89 says:

    Happy Birthday Kanuuuuuu 🙂

    Tickets on exchange. Use my cards.

  3. mickydidit89 says:

    Try again 😦

    Professorial quality research. Very interesting read, thank you.

    I am not entirely convinced by the German case that the Olympic experienced was all in developing a World Cup winning side. They have a smaller league, and just happen to be having a golden crop, just as the French did, Brazilians did and so on. Then there’s the other stuff, like training at grass roots, fitness coaching etc.

  4. Lovely stuff Arnie and as always, well researched.

  5. kelsey says:

    As NB says really well researched.

    by the way after lengthy research I found out that Kanu isn’t 86 today but only 84.

  6. arnie says:

    Motning/ afternoon all. Happy birthday, Kanu. 🙂

    Plenty of typos in the post. Apols.

  7. arnie says:

    Kanu’s hatrick against Chavs

  8. fatgingergooner says:

    So to summarise Wengers press conference so far:-

    Campbell should be staying, Vermaelen could be going, Quintero rumour is rubbish, and we are still looking for players.

    Knowing Wenger, it will probably be the complete opposite!

  9. fatgingergooner says:

    Kanu against Chelsea is still one of my favourite Arsenal moments!

    I was in hysterics as I watched the goals go in live………….via teletext!!!!

    Those were the days 🙂

  10. 124Toeknee says:

    Kanu. Nice.

  11. GunnerN5 says:

    Well done arnie, I appreciate the amount of work that goes into creating historic posts.

    The Kanu hat trick was one of the all time Arsenal moments –

    humm….maybe I’ll give some thought to a series of posts on “Arsenal Moments”

  12. arnie says:

    GN5. A series on “Arsenal Moments” will be brilliant. 🙂

  13. mickydidit89 says:

    I think Eddie will have an “Arsenal Moment” if Sky don’t get that saucer up on to her house before kick off tomorrow.

  14. mickydidit89 says:

    Funny old thing addiction.

    Swore I’d never go to an Ems Cup again, and here I am champing at the bit.

  15. Eddie says:

    are you mad Didit? I’ve been on Sky for 2 weeks now, marvellous! I can hardly recommend it 🙂

    And why did you swear not to go to the Ems cup again, any reasonable explanation?

  16. GunnerN5 says:

    Okay – I think it’s time to get our stick;s out and start beating the bushes to drive that elusive RASP out into the open……………

    I’ll lead the 1st group….and we will use stick’s with five long metal spikes……..

  17. Eddie says:

    arnie – dearie me, that’s a king size post!! If I haven’t met you, I’d think you must be a nerd or an academic of sorts 🙂

    Thank you for you hard work, much appreciated. Now Kanu, never mind his gold medals and birthday, what I will always remember of him is the fact that our Peaches designed his garden

  18. GunnerN5 says:

    Simple eddie he’s already confessed to his addiction, one that is shared by millions of people – and there is no known cure!.

  19. mickydidit89 says:

    Cheers FGG for the reminder. Just watched the Arsene Press thing on the site.

    Boooo. You’re right, it’s curtains for Verm.

  20. mickydidit89 says:


    Peaches said something about you waiting for Sky after I was letching after you earlier 🙂

  21. Eddie says:

    It was the internet lark. The TV went up almost instantly, but I had to wait for a while for the broadband. Still, it was well worth it

    What’s your take on Rasp? Weird init? It is his blog, you’d think he’d at least say hello to us. But never mind, the Admin girl is doing a terrific job, so our ‘jobs’ on here are safe

    TV going?? Where??

  22. peter says:

    Great post Arnie,i enjoyed reading that….btw,do we have any african gunners on here?!….if yes,i need one to tell me if Dstv will be airing the emirates cup tommorow and exactly channel what please?!….(East Africans will be better suited to anser that since Am Kenyan)

  23. mickydidit89 says:

    Hi Peter
    What is Dstv? Do you have to pay for it, and is it a Sports only network?

  24. Ant says:

    Hot news from AFC

    I would like to give notice that the infamous Ant and Duck will be making a comeback LIVE for the Crystal Palace game… be warned!

  25. mickydidit89 says:

    Maybe Rasp has gone all mature and not doing close season transfer goss.

    Or shipped off for the summer onto a hippy commune with Raddy.

  26. peter says:

    …that hatrick against the chavs will remain to be my favourite hatric ever(btw,i started watching arsenal that season)it was great watching Nwanko scoring that hatrick,especialy that goal he scored from an almost imposible angle.

  27. peter says:

    micky,itz a pay tv,like Bt or sky in your case…itz a sports only entity….itz widely known as supersport here….it originates from South Africa me thinks….the awefull Townsend(senior)is one of the pundits,when he is analysing our match i rarely watch the half time analysis due to his biase…such wanker!

  28. Eddie says:

    hi peter, I am African at heart.

    MDI – I missed out on the hippy days in a catholic communist country, where fun was strictly forbidden. So correct me if I am wrong, but I have always thought that a hippy has long hair, flowery shirt and a joint. Rasp and Raddy?

  29. peter says:

    Eddie,the Best Way to find out is to plan a holiday here in kenya….the weather and peaple here are awesome that i asure you…and you need not worry about finding around,i’l do that myself…,at what time is our first match and against who?(your local time please)

  30. chás says:

    Epic post, arnie, cheers.

    Kanu and Lauren, both hugely likeable Arsenal players.

    This Kanu goal against Deportivo was the other major time I can remember an audible stadium orgasm on watching the replay on the Jumbotron. (we’ve now got flat screen big screens in keeping with the times)

    As for Ralphie, just look at his face. 🙂

  31. peter says:

    …eddie,i meant you need not wory about finding your way around here…i just noticed that i wasnt the first to comment about Nwanko’s hatrick,sorry guys,i commented before reading earlier comments.

  32. mickydidit89 says:


    He was one cool cat

  33. Eddie says:

    peter – Saranghetti is top of the list of destinations. Fixtures:

    Hi Ant! Planning your binges already, unbelievable

  34. mickydidit89 says:

    Ant ‘n Duck Show

    God, give me strength 🙂

    And soo, the looong season begins…

  35. mickydidit89 says:


    I know that in your part of the world you have man eating beasts that roam the plains by day and night, but be warned, if you have a side parting and strange regional accent, your life will be in great peril if Eddie ever sets sail.

  36. Eddie says:

    Eddie the man eater 🙂 as if

  37. kelsey says:

    8 posts in drafts

  38. kelsey says:

    Vermaelen MAY leave,said the boss.

  39. mickydidit89 says:


  40. mickydidit89 says:

    “Vermaelen MAY leave”

    You are being slightly economical and selective there, aren’t you Crystals.
    He elaborated, didn’t he Crystals.
    Said how Verm wanted to play football, and how he couldn’t give him that.
    Also said he would have to be replaced if he left, which means Chambers is not CB as well as RB cover.
    He said stuff like that as well, didn’t he Crystals 🙂

    Now, get your nib out, and get busy

  41. Peachesgooner says:

    Anyone fancy penning an opener to the Emirates cup for tomorrow morning?

  42. arnie says:

    thanks chums, brilliant stuff. back from a long meeting to find 40+ responses. Happy bunny. 🙂

    That Kanu goal was brilliant. Warm glow. All set for the Emirates Cup then. 😛

    Hush hush, have we got any new toy today? 😛

  43. arnie says:

    “Vermaelen MAY leave”. Perhaps, but when? 😛 so many questions, so few answers. 🙂

  44. GunnerN5 says:

    Vemaelen may leave –

    Rasp may return.

  45. arnie says:

    hmm, yes GN5, the mystery of the vanishing Rasp! 😛

  46. mickydidit89 says:


    I’ll scribble something

  47. kelsey says:


    Aha you will scribble something like Sanchez rose like a dolphin to score our fifth goal and the waves he got were tremendous.

    Is it on TV ?

  48. mickydidit89 says:

    Mmm, good question Crystals. Off to check.

  49. mickydidit89 says:

    Ha ha, it’s on BT Sport

    That’ll be the one Eddie put the boot in to. Mind you, she’s probably going.

    Must find out if we get it, as we’re back on BT Broadband since moving. Mmm

  50. mickydidit89 says:

    Post sent

  51. kelsey says:

    4 months ago to the day our dear friend dandan passed away and he will always be missed,especially by me.

  52. kelsey says:

    I see that Sky have now rescheduled their lives games and our opening two games against Palace and Everton are now being shown.

  53. Eddie says:

    feck! no, Eddie is not going and cannot watch on BT Sports 🙂 ha ha ha, oh well I am still proud of what I did

    All I have to do now is to reassemble my laptop and find a decent stream. Easy

    So Jenks is loaned to the Hammers. Does it mean we will get another defender yet?

  54. chás says:

    Comments about binges and Dennis giving strength make me think the Ant ‘n Duck show has outlived its popularity. Duly noted.

    Anyway, matchday chaps and chapesses. Looking forward to a Micky appetite-whettener.

  55. chás says:
  56. chás says:
  57. chás says:

    Love this. Could be the crowd at an Arsenal game.

  58. chás says:
  59. Eddie says:

    are you trying to talk to me Chas? You know that I could not possibly ignore photos of Alexi, children and dogs 🙂 thanks for those

  60. Eddie says:

    I still get goose bumps thinking about ROSA – that’s mine very clever acronym for Ramsey-Ozil-Sanchez ATTACK 🙂

  61. Eddie says:

    Lampart on loan till March to SHITTY!! He is either shamelss or hates Maurinho

  62. mickydidit89 says:

    Hey Chas

    You’re being a little sensitive this morning

    The drinking must continue, and the duck show must go on, so man up 🙂

  63. mickydidit89 says:

    Oh what style, they’ve added the Cup Win to the bragging board.

    Classy 😦

  64. chás says:

    Ha, I put the 2014 FAC photo up just for you, Mr Sensitive.
    How can you get wound up by a few numerals and an illustration of a cup?

  65. mickydidit89 says:

    This was the biggest problem with old guard (English Hillwoods) handing over matters of taste to foreigners.

    They will never understand the way things are done here.

    Anyway, moving swiftly on…. 🙂

  66. mickydidit89 says:

    Because it’s so vulgar Chas

    English qualities include humour and modesty 🙂

    Now, get drinking

  67. chás says:

    The drinking will continue regardless. 🙂

  68. mickydidit89 says:

    and the show?

  69. chás says:

    I quite like vulgar.

  70. chás says:

    Show me yours and I’ll show you mine………

  71. chás says:


  72. Morning all

    How many times do you think the FA cup win will be mentioned by those toads at BT sport??? How many times will the trophy drought be introduced into commentary????

    Someone needs to tell them, we did it and it’s over now. Maybe a job for agent evonne 😉

  73. Oh, shall I do it now?

  74. Ok, it’s done.

    We have a NEW POST …………………………

  75. My vote goes to the continuing of the Ant and Duck Show ……… be in no doubt chaps I love your journey observations.

  76. Mandy says:

    Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.
    I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

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