Gareth Bale has risked the wrath of the Football Association of Wales and the country's football supporters by controversially posing in a British Olympic team supporters' shirt.
The FAs of Wales, N. Ireland and Scotland have been vehement in their opposition to a British football team in next year's London Olympics. Bale, who has 32 caps for Wales, has previously hinted that he would like to be part of a united British team and has given another clear indication by posing in the limited edition shirt which will be sold to fans.
A spokesman for the British Olympic Association said: "We have maintained all along that Team GB will allow for the consideration, and possible inclusion, of players from any of the home nations, so it only makes sense that Gareth would appear in the photo." Bale is, however, the first and thus far only player to appear in the shirt. His status as Wales's most high-profile international makes that even more notable.
Jonathan Ford, the chief executive of the FAW, said: "Our position remains unchanged. We are not for Team GB. Gareth can make his own choices and make his own decisions. But we are not going to stop anyone playing." Bale's own spokesman added: "While he is 100% Welsh, he is also British."
The shirt modelled by Bale is blue with a white and red trim. As part of the design, a union flag is painted into the body. The design of the actual strip to be worn by the team, which will be managed by Stuart Pearce, is yet to be revealed.
The associations in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland fear the potential loss of their independent football status if they agree with players competing for a Great Britain team. These countries are also thought to be keen to protect the positions they hold on the International Football Association Board.
Bale's club manager, Harry Redknapp, has said he would have no problem with the 22-year-old turning out for a British team. "If that's what he wants, then I wouldn't stop him playing," Redknapp said. "I think it's a great honour for anyone to play in an Olympic Games. It must be fantastic, something to look back on for years to come.
"To play in the Olympic Games in England, I think it would be a great honour for any player. I certainly wouldn't stop anyone going."