Hockey: Controversial Falklands film ramps up tensions ahead of Argentina clash with Team GB

 

A tasteless promotional film has added to the rivalry between Great Britain and Argentina ahead of tonight's men's match.

Hockey was promoted from minor story status on the sports pages to front-page lead in May when a ­promotional film was broadcast in Argentina showing national team ­captain Fernando Zylberberg training at sites around the Falkland Islands including doing step-ups on a war memorial.

The film, which concluded with the slogan ‘To compete on English soil we train on Argentine soil’, was criticised at the time as “tasteless” by defence secretary Philip Hammond, who went on to say it was “very insulting” to the many service personnel who gave their lives protecting the Islands during the conflict of 1982.

Zylberberg, who played in the 2000 and 2004 Summer Games, has not travelled to London with the squad. “He had some injuries this year,” said his successor as captain, Matias Vila. “It was just a decision on the physical side. I am sure it was nothing to do with this.”

Cynics will counter that Zylberberg’s absence probably has everything to do with the diplomatic row caused by the controversial film.

Yet even if his omission from the squad was an attempt to defuse the situation, there have been briefings from government sources revealing concern that Argentine competitors may use the Olympics to stage a political protest in the manner of the Black Power salute given on the podium by American 200m runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Games in Mexico City.

The match at the Riverbank Arena begins at 7pm while the other major action on the Olympic Park tonight is  over at the Aquatic Centre where ­Britain’s Liam Tancock is in the final of the 100m backstroke.

Tancock put in an heroic performance in last night’s semi-final, pushing world champion Frenchman Camille Lacourt all the way to the final touch.

But the man to beat in the final will be Matt Grevers, the 6ft 8ins man-torpedo from the United States, who qualified fastest.

Robbie Renwick will also have his work cut out against a top American, Ryan Lochte, in the men’s 200m freestyle final. But there could be ‘British’ success, of sorts, in the concluding medal race of the night for the women’s 100m breaststroke.

The Plymouth Herald newspaper claims “Plymouth schoolgirl” Ruta Meilutyte is on course for gold after setting the fourth fastest time in the event’s history in the semi-finals.

Alas, we cannot claim the 15-year-old sensation as one of our own.

She may study in Plymouth, and train with the Plymouth Leander club, but hails from Kaunas in Lithuania and says: “I love my country. It’s an honour to represent it.”

Great Britain’s women’s basketball team go into their must-win group game against Canada at 8pm having already earned the respect of the world 11th ranked side.

Despite GB, ranked 49th, losing to Australia at the weekend, Canada coach Allison McNeill insists: “They’re playing very well, and they’ll have the home crowd. We’re the underdog, regardless of the rankings.”

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