Leading article: A question of sport

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The Independent Online

In the realms of sport and national identity, logic is an unreliable compass. Yesterday's announcement that a Great Britain football team will compete in the 2012 Olympics merely served to expose the unbridgeable divisions between the various parts of these isles when it comes to the beautiful game. The squad is set to be made up entirely of Englishmen. Yet in South Africa today a sporting team made up of ball players from all over these islands, even the Republic of Ireland, will be begin a tour in perfect harmony.

So why the difference? Why is a true British football team apparently impossible, yet enthusiasm for the British and Irish Lions remains as strong as ever? Some put it down to the greater animosity between regional football governing bodies. Others suggest it is the fear of submergence by the smaller nations.

Whatever the explanation it is rather a shame that oval-shaped balls seem better at uniting Britons than round ones.