Premier League footballer Patrick Bamford discusses possibility of playing for Team GB one day, what he’ll be watching at Tokyo 2020, his Olympic memories, and the importance of the England football team’s anti-racism message.
London 2012 was an Olympic Games like no other. Warm weather – rare for England, an excited public, and, for the first time since 1960 – a Great Britain men’s football team.
Great Britain qualified as hosts, despite the four FIFA member home nations – England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland – competing separately in international football. Therefore, an agreement was reached to allow a GB team to take part, with English and Welsh players eventually selected.
Patrick Bamford was then a 19-year-old youngster playing at Chelsea. “I remember it was the year that it was Craig Bellamy, [Daniel] Sturridge, Ryan Giggs [in the squad],” he told Tokyo 2020 in an exclusive interview ahead of the Olympics in 2021.
Now 27, Bamford is a key member of the Leeds United strike-force in the English Premier League, and is hopeful of soon making a full international appearance for England.
Although a men’s GB team did not participate at Rio 2016, and will not do so at Tokyo 2020, Bamford says the possibility that it could happen again, potentially at Paris 2024, is an opportunity he would like to be considered for.
“You know, it’s still in the future and obviously there’s still discussions to be had between all the home nations,” he said.
It’s the only chance I would get to go to an Olympics and there are not many people who can say they’ve represented Great Britain at the Olympics.
“So 100 per cent, that would be something I’d love to do, and hopefully it gets worked out.”
For now, Bamford says he’ll be cheering GB the women’s team on at Tokyo 2020 in 2021.
Olympic values in football
Bamford considers himself, like so many others, an armchair Olympics fan. However, London 2012 was special for him – not just a home Games, but also the chance to watch an all-time great in person.
“I did actually go to the Olympics – I watched when Usain Bolt won his 100 metre final, I was in the stadium for that. So that was quite a spectacle.
“I actually love watching the Olympics, just random sports that normally on a day-to-day basis, I would never find myself watching, but somehow become like really, really involved in like the gymnastics, for instance.”
The 27-year-old, who was born in the English county of Lincolnshire, says he has always applied the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship, and Respect throughout his football career.
“I think excellence comes down to hard work,” he explained. “A lot of people I’ve come across in football, especially, who had the talent, who were brilliant at football, but they didn’t have the hard work ended up falling off the ladder.
“So I think excellence comes down to: you can be good, you can have a skill, you can be born with kind of certain skills but you have to harness it. You have to put in hard work and that turns into excellence.
“Friendship is something that’s crucial because, especially in a game like football, you can’t just do it on your own, you’re not playing on your own, you need your team-mates, you need to be friends with them. You need to have that good relationship in order to succeed. And I think even that’s true to a certain extent with individual athletes. I feel like it doesn’t matter what kind of sport you do. In order to succeed in it, you need those good people around you.
“Respect. That’s probably the biggest one, because ultimately you start playing a sport, or doing a sport because you love it. In football, there is always that mutual respect between every player. People will argue on the pitch; people will fight on the pitch sometimes and there will be nasty things said on the pitch. But underneath all that, there is always that mutual respect.
“You’ve got to respect the amount of time someone’s put into to be able to be at the top of their field, whatever sport it may be, and even not sport, musician, anything like that. You have to respect what they’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you like the person. If you don’t like the person, you have to respect the amount of time they’ve put in. Nothing happens by accident.”
Standing up against racism in football
That last value – respect – has been spoken about a lot in English football recently. At the end of last season, players, clubs, and stakeholders boycotted social media over continued racial abuse aimed at players.
After the recent UEFA Euro 2020 final, which England lost on penalties, the three English players who missed, who are all black, were all racially abused.
Kicking out abuse is something players have tried to draw attention to by kneeling before matches, but Bamford believes more has to be done.
“The players who are taking a knee, they’re not doing an extremist movement, they’re standing up for equality, basically, that people shouldn’t be judged on skin tone, race, religion, anything like that.
“It starts with education. No child is born a racist or prejudiced, and they’re kind of educated, and that is what they grow up being taught, is how they kind of mould into that figure. So I think it starts with education, but that’s kind of a long term thing.
“I think in terms of being able to change things in the short term, the easiest way and it’s probably going to upset a lot of people is by financial penalty. I guarantee people will think twice about it, if they’re starting to then have to worry about if they’re having to pay fines for that.”
Did the social media boycott have an effect?
“I don’t think it’s had a long term impact like people probably hoped it would,” Bamford admitted.
“I think that there has to be sterner measures again.”
Taking up sport
With Covid-19 pandemic restrictions being relaxed in some countries, Bamford is keen for people to take up – or continue in – sport.
“I think that the majority of people now will appreciate more of the outdoors, as weird as it sounds,” he says.
“During lockdown, the only real chance they could get out of the house was to go on a walk, to walk the dog, to run, or cycle, or whatever, and to do that physical activity for the amount of time they’re allotted.
“So I think now people are kind of appreciating the outside side of it, the things you can do in like countryside and all its benefits that gives you,” he pointed out.
“Coming into the ‘new normality’, I think you’ll see a lot more kind of people being active and spending more time outdoors, which can only be good for people’s health.”
Olympic Games memories
Perhaps surprisingly, his first memory of the Games isn’t like most other sportspeople, watching it on television.
“You know, this is random, but I think it was Athens 2004, and I was actually in Greece at the time on a family holiday,” he recalled, laughing.
“This doesn’t really have too much to do with the actual Olympic Games going on, but I remember really wanting a T-shirt in a shop that had the logo of the Athens Olympics and I ended up getting that.”
His favourite memory, though, is one that many others might pick, too.
“I think the one that sticks with me is being able to watch Usain Bolt do the 100 metre final. That was just a fantastic day, and obviously being able to see that even though it’s only 10 seconds, it was brilliant.”