Olympics appearance takes the heat off Team GB footballer Craig Bellamy


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The Independent Online

Craig Bellamy has admitted that he is enjoying taking part in the Games because he is viewed by fans as an Olympian rather than a hate-figure.

There are some players fans love to hate and for many, Bellamy falls into that category. In Great Britain colours, he is simply viewed as one of the over‑age players helping his country seek a highly improbable medal.

“It has just been an incredible experience,” said Bellamy. “To play just a tiny little fraction, to see people coming together and wanting you to do well has been a huge honour. When I play football, it is difficult sometimes, the abuse you can receive.

“You have to learn to carry broad shoulders. But this has been refreshing. People have been so positive and it has been a pleasure to be involved in.”

There is a growing humility about this Great Britain side that is not often associated with footballers earning extortionate wages in the Premier League or further afield.

Despite the travelling they have done — Saturday’s quarter-final against South Korea will take place at the Millennium Stadium, where Daniel Sturridge’s goal was enough to beat Uruguay last night — Stuart Pearce’s squad have immersed themselves in the Olympic experience.

“We watch everything,” said Bellamy. “That is what makes the Olympics so great. From the minute you wake up, there is something to watch. You feel great and you want to get behind every sport. To be involved in it, to wear this kit and badge is brilliant.”

With the knockout stages on the horizon, inevitable medal talk has begun. But Bellamy played this down, saying: “That’s you English, that is what you lot do! I’m Welsh and just grateful to be involved.

“We are not going to win it. We aren’t going to come first, second or third. We are just trying to beat South Korea. You can’t look too far ahead. That’s what you lot do and that’s why you struggle.

“You just can’t do that in this game, or in life, because anything can happen. Being Welsh it has taught me that, with two minutes to go, anything can happen. That’s what it’s been like for our nation.”

The progress made by Britain’s men’s and women’s teams is helping football take an increasingly prominent role at these Games. Yet the determination not to detract from more traditional Olympic disciplines extends to Bellamy’s assertion that despite a stellar wage and the celebrity culture of the Premier League, footballers should not be considered superstars.

“I have never once felt that way and I try to exclude myself from that,” he said. “I have the most incredible wife and kids. That’s why I live in Wales, too. I can’t tell you what other players feel like, whether they feel like a star or not — I just know this game is going to finish for me sooner or later.

“I’m just grateful for playing this unbelievable game and it doesn’t make me a superstar.”