Boyish enthusiasm in Stuart Pearce's Team GB side before kick-off with Brazil

 

Jason Steele is, he tells us, under orders from his dad. "He's told me to get as much memorabilia as possible," says the Middlesbrough goalkeeper, sat behind a place card which reads 'Jason Steele Olympic Athlete.' "Aye, and that's going as well!"

There is an understandable desire to gauge where Olympic football in this country will register amongst a sporting public looking at a third successive football tournament in two months, the end of the Premier League, the European Championship and now this. Perhaps its best measure comes in the boyish delight of those taking part.

Stuart Pearce, the Team GB coach – "Was I stagestruck in the village? No, I'm a dour bugger. I don't get stage-struck" – spoke about a unique spirit amongst his squad, something he has never encountered in his three campaigns in European Championships and World Cups as a player with England, or during his time as manager of the Under-21 side.

"Going into the Olympic village last Monday took their breath away," he said. "The size of it all hit home to the staff and the players. Even though it was quiet because it was the first day, it showed what this encompasses.

"We know there's something special. When I've spoken to the players individually and said, 'How are you feeling about it?' they say they find it different to when they're with the England squad. There's just something special about it, that probably we can't put into words.

"There's something of a magnitude which is just incredible, that we're involved in. The advice to all the players is, 'Look we're in it, let's give it our best and try and win the tournament.' That's what we'll prepare to do but you must enjoy it, too. I probably haven't got the right vocabulary to put it into words, but there's something just slightly special about this one. Even different to the England squads I've been in, the Under-21s, whatever. It's just slightly different in some way, shape or form."

Perhaps what stands out most is the disbelief that these people are involved in the Olympics, and the lack of crushing expectation. Football used to be like this. Old Trafford is expected to be full next Thursday, when the campaign starts, against Senegal.

"When it was announced we were going to have a team in the Olympics, I don't think people were particularly sure what the magnitude of it all would be," added Pearce. "But we've got three group games that are pretty much sold out. I can only draw on my experience of tournament football. I played in my first tournament at the World Cup in 1990 and a quarter of a million people met us at Luton Airport even though we'd been beaten in the semi-final. That generated huge excitement within the country. Then at Euro 96, it was football in an environment like I'd never known it. If these players get a taste in this tournament of what I experienced in 1996, they will be the richer for it, that's for sure. It blew me away and blew my family away. It was an experience that no one in that squad will forget."

Steele, at least, has been forewarned: "We're in hotels the majority of the time, we travel around and play games, so to go into that sort of environment is a big culture shock because you're no longer just yourself as a group of 18, you're now 500-odd athletes all part of a team. To experience that was brilliant, and I think we're going back there as well. It'll probably be even busier when we go back and it'll be something else.

"To be honest, I don't really think it'll sink in properly until it's all over. In years to come I'm sure I'll cherish this forever. I'm forever being reminded by my dad to keep little things because I'll look back in years to come with my children and grandchildren and it'll be something to hold on to."

Preparation will intensify tonight, when Team GB face the much-fancied Brazilians at the Riverside Stadium. Daniel Sturridge, who has been suffering from viral meningitis, should play after impressing in training. A decision on his participation in the Games will follow the match.

Preceding Team GB tomorrow will be Team GB women, who face Sweden on the same ground, at four o'clock. The Olympics are offering a real opportunity to the women's game, as head coach Hope Powell admitted.

"We want to set a long-lasting legacy," she said. "We want to show that women's football is a good product. We want it valued as a sport in its own right. This gives us a platform to showcase the sport.

"It will give us a benchmark as to where we are in the squad. Preparations are going very well. The girls have trained very well and hard. Sweden are highly ranked, World Cup winners, so this will determine how much more we need to do."

Powell's message mirrored that of Pearce. "You're an Olympian first and a footballer second," she added. "It's about the kitting-out experience, it's about going to the village, it's not just about football. It's about Team GB, I like it. It's been a good experience. The whole thing has been something very special. It will last in my memory a very long time and we're embracing every moment."

That was a common theme yesterday.

Brazilians to watch

Leandro Damiao da Silva dos Santos

Emerging from the shadow of the Hulk is not easy, just ask David Banner. That is the task for Leandro Damiao for the rest of the Olympics. What the 22-year-old clearly does have is the character to try. Only through moving to a forward role did his star begin to shine, and now, along with his nine caps for the full Brazil side, he has scored 24 times for his club side Internacional.

Neymar

Neymar is the European Cup in the form of a player, 'another' Holy Grail that Roman Abramovich has chased for years. As yet, unlike the trophy, the 20-year-old has escaped the Chelsea owner's grasp. No wonder he wants him, Neymar has flair and scores for fun, 42 in 88 for his club side Santos, nine in 18 for the full Brazil team.

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links