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Northern Ireland football chiefs to ponder GB Olympic side

By Paul Ferguson

Irish Football Association chiefs plan to hold a meeting to seriously digest the comments made by Gianni Infantino after the Fifa President appeared to open a pathway for the formation of an all-UK football side at the Olympic Games.

The governing body of Northern Ireland football, along with their counterparts in Scotland and Wales, have continually held the firm stance that they reject the idea of a united Team GB&NI side in an effort to protect the identity and status of each national association with world football.

After an enforced absence of 52 years, all three Associations relented in 2012, to join forces with the Football Association for the London Olympics, but only after being given special assurances, and this was seen as a one-off.

But Infantino, who was a guest of the IFA at the Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup qualifying game on Saturday night after officially opening the new-look Windsor Park, insists he would support an all-UK side at the Olympics and that all three Associations would not be placing their status in jeopardy by agreeing to such a team.

He said: "My view is certainly that I don't see this as being an issue.

"I see things in a much more pragmatic way in general.

“The Olympics are such that there has to be one team from the UK, so if we can find a football solution which allows a football team from the UK — and if they qualify to play – then this would certainly not jeopardise in any way whatsoever 130, 140, 150 years of history of the four home nations. That’s not an issue.”

Infantino, who was voted into power last February to replace the disgraced Sepp Blatter, received support from the Irish FA, Scottish FA and Football Association of Wales in his candidacy.

He is a known friend of each association, but it’s unsure whether his comments will have any impact on a future GB&NI team at the Olympics. Infantino would like talks to start immediately on the agreement of an all-UK side so that a team could try and qualify for Tokyo in 2020.

The most powerful man in world football states: “It’s up for them to agree.

“They speak the same language so they should see how they can best agree to do something like that.”

The Irish FA plans to hold talks on the subject, but with Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson and new Irish FA president David Martin both in Hannover for tomorrow night’s World Cup qualifying match with Germany, any formal discussions regarding Infantino’s comments will not take place until they return to Belfast on Wednesday.

An Irish FA spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph: “We have read with interest the comments from Fifa president Gianni Infantino concerning one football team from the UK participating at the Olympic Games.

“We will be meeting to discuss his comments further.”

Northern Ireland's Steve Davis scores a penalty during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast.
Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Steve Davis scores a penalty during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas and San Marinos Aldo Simoncini during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas can't beleived he missed an open net during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's fans enjoy the half-time entertainment during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's fans enjoy the half-time entertainment during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Conor Washington gets a shot away during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward and San Marinos Matteo Vitaioli during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and looks to the heavens after missing a chance during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 - The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Golfer Rory McIlroy shares a joke with NI Football legend Harry Gregg pictured at the National Football Stadium Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 - The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Golfer Rory McIlroy with FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and Marco Van Basten at the National Football Stadium Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill speaks to Oliver Norwood during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C San Marinos Mirko Paiazzi is sent off during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 08th October 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Steven Davis scoring a penalty against San Marino during Saturday nights World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C San Marinos Mirko Paiazzi is sent off during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 - The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier First Minister Arlene Foster and Communities Minister Paul Givan celebrate the first goal at the game. Photo by William Cherry / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 08th October 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates scoring against San Marino during Saturday nights World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 08th October 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates scoring against San Marino during Saturday nights World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 08th October 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Steven Davis scoring a penalty against San Marino during Saturday nights World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 08th October 2016 - Photo by William Cherry To mark the official opening of the National Stadium at Windsor Park, some famous Northern Ireland faces from sport, tv and music to do a lap of the pitch before Northern Ireland took on San Marino in the World Cup 2018 Qualifier. Pictured with the fans is Denis Taylor
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 08th October 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates scoring against San Marino during Saturday nights World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Press Eye Northern Ireland's Conor McLauglin and San Marino's Mirko Palazzi in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier and opening game at the newly developed National Stadium - Windsor Park on 8th October 2016 , Belfast , Northern Ireland Photo by Kevin Scott / Press Eye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Press Eye San Marino's Mirko Palazzi sent off in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier and opening game at the newly developed National Stadium - Windsor Park on 8th October 2016 , Belfast , Northern Ireland Photo by Kevin Scott / Press Eye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland’s Gareth McCauley and San Marino’s Mattia Stefanelli during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland’s Conor McLaughlin and Oliver Norwood with Luca Tosi of San Marino during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland’s Stuart Dallas and San Marino’s Matteo Vitaioli during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland’s Stuart Dallas and San Marino’s Matteo Vitaioli during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/10/2016 Northern Ireland v San Marino World Cup Qualifier Group C Northern Ireland’s Jamie Ward and Alessandro Della Valle of San Marino during this evenings game at the National Stadium in Belfast. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and San Marinos Alessandro Della Valle during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward scores during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 8-10-16 Northern Ireland v San Marino - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Picture - Kevin Scott / Press Eye Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty scores in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier and opening game at the newly developed National Stadium - Windsor Park on 8th October 2016 , Belfast , Northern Ireland Photo by Kevin Scott / Press Eye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Press Eye Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty scores in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier and opening game at the newly developed National Stadium - Windsor Park on 8th October 2016 , Belfast , Northern Ireland Photo by Kevin Scott / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th October 2016 -Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Selfie time for Actor James Nesbitt, Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody and Dame Mary Peters attending The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park Opening Game and Ceremony before Northern Ireland vs San Marino 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Photo by Brian Little/ Press Eye

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