Kelly Smith laments Rio snub for GB women’s football team

Kelly Smith says it would be a shame if the Great Britain women’s football team did not compete at the Rio Olympics.

The Football Association has said it is unlikely because qualification can only come from the Women’s World Cup in 2015, in which home nations take part separately.

“That’s a shame because you see the exposure we got at these Olympics,” Arsenal striker Smith told the BBC.

“I’m praying that in 2016 in Brazil there is a women’s team.”

The FA has already said that Great Britain will not send a men’s team to the 2016 Olympics because they would need to qualify via the European Under-21 Championship.

In the women’s case, Britain would have to be one of the top three European teams at the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

Both the men’s and women’s team qualified for London 2012 only because of their host status.

The desire within the FA, including manager Hope Powell and the players, is to compete in Rio, but unifying the homes nations for World Cup qualifying would signal the end for the chances of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to compete individually.

Those political issues come after the British women’s team made a real impact at the London Olympics, despite being knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Canada.

A record British women’s football crowd of 70,584 saw the host nation beat Brazil 1-0 at Wembley in their last group game.

And Smith, who is England’s record goalscorer, wants women’s football to build on that success.

The 33-year-old added: “We got a tremendous amount of exposure. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To play in [front of] record crowds, to get people to come out and support women’s football was fantastic.

“Hopefully now we can build on the momentum of that and see more crowds at women’s football. I’ve played in four European Championship and two World Cups, so to add this now to my playing career, it’s up there.

“I’ve played in America for a number of years and the Americans view that [the Olympic experience] as the ultimate, so why can’t we have a GB team?”

Smith will be aiming to help England qualify for the 2013 European Championship in Sweden when Powell’s side take on Croatia at Walsall next month.