The GB Olympic team played its last ‘home’ fixture on this day in 1971.
The last Olympic football match on home soil was played on this day 39 years ago. A Great Britain team managed by Charles Hughes met Bulgaria in the first leg of a First Qualifying Round tie at Wembley and beat them 1-0.
The British team administered by The (English) FA was attempting to qualify for the 1972 Olympic Finals in West Germany. They had made it through to the 1960 tournament in Italy but had missed out in ’64 and ’68.
Their task was huge. The Olympics were then for ‘amateur’ sportsmen and the GB line-up on a freezing night at Wembley included players from amateur clubs like Enfield, Hendon and Slough Town. The only non-Englishman was Scottish centre-back Bill Currie who played for Albion Rovers. Bulgaria, like other Eastern bloc countries, didn’t have ‘professional’ footballers at that time so they were able to choose what was virtually their World Cup side.
In one of the greatest giant-killing feats in football history the British lads won 1-0, Joe Adams heading the crucial goal after 15 minutes. But they came unstuck in the second leg, Bulgaria winning 5-0 before 30,000 fans in Sofia’s Vasil Levski Stadium. Then the Bulgarians went out to Poland, the eventual gold medallists.
In 1974 The FA Council abolished the official distinction between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ players and that signalled the end of the England amateur team, the GB Olympic team and The FA Amateur Cup competition.