The highly-regarded 22-year-old midfielder went against the wishes of the SFA to take her place in the Great Britain squad who begin their quest for Olympic gold with an opening group game against New Zealand in Cardiff tomorrow.
But Little is unfazed by the political row which overshadowed the build-up to the competition, with the SFA joining their counterparts in Northern Ireland and Wales in advising their players not to be party to any potential risk to the home nations’ historical independent status within Fifa.
Little, one of two Scots in the GB women’s squad along with central defender Ifeoma Dieke, insists what she learns over the next few weeks can benefit Scotland’s attempts to reach a major women’s international tournament finals for the first time.
Anna Signeul’s Scotland squad remain in the hunt to reach next year’s Uefa Women’s Euro finals in Sweden, while the next Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015 will see the number of finalists increased to 24.
“That’s the target for Scotland, to get to that level, and playing in the Olympics can only help Ifeoma and myself,” Little told The Scotsman. “We have obviously never played in a major tournament finals before, unlike the English girls, so taking part in the Olympics will give us experience that we can use in the future to help Scotland.
“We have two more qualifiers coming up with Scotland later this year and hopefully we can make it to the play-offs for the Euros. If Scotland could reach the finals of a major tournament, it would help to raise our profile even further and attract more sponsors. It would all help develop women’s football in Scotland.
“I never had any doubts about being part of the Olympics. I said from the start that, given the opportunity, I would play for Great Britain. It’s such a massive sporting event, there was no way I was going to turn my back on it.
“We were advised by the SFA about it and I spoke to Anna Signeul about it as well. They made their thoughts on it clear. But ultimately the decision was left to each individual player. I wanted to be involved and that was it, as far as I was concerned. I think I’m going into it with the best wishes of Anna and the rest of the Scottish girls.”
Little’s place in England coach Hope Powell’s GB squad was never in doubt once the Aberdeen-born player had publicly declared her willingness to take part. A key member of the successful Arsenal Ladies side who provide six members of the 18-strong GB party, Little is considered to be one of the brightest talents in European women’s football.
“It was still a big boost when the squad was named,” she said. “Like everyone else, I was sitting waiting for the phone call. It was exciting when it came. Playing in the Olympics was never an ambition of mine growing up, because it wasn’t something you felt was possible for a footballer. But it’s great that it has come along for us and we are all so excited about it. We just can’t wait for the matches to start now. It’s something we will probably never get the chance to experience again, so we want to make the most of it.
“For me, I came down to London a few years ago, both to go to university and to play for the best women’s team in Britain. It has helped me develop and reach this stage of my career. I’ve been lucky enough to win trophies with Arsenal, I’ve also scored for Scotland in a win against England which was amazing. But this tournament is obviously the highlight of my career.”
Former Hibernian Ladies player Little was deployed in the playmaker role for Team GB’s warm-up match against Sweden in Middlesbrough last Friday, indicating she is likely to hold down a starting berth in the tournament itself. After tomorrow’s opener against New Zealand, Team GB remain in Cardiff to take on Cameroon on Saturday, before a keenly anticipated Group E finale against Brazil at Wembley on 31 July.
“The Brazil game is going to be incredible,” says Little of the game against the Beijing silver medallists and current South American champions. “A lot of tickets have been sold for that one. It will be a fantastic occasion and to play at Wembley is obviously a dream for any footballer.
“I think we have a great chance of winning a medal in this tournament, we have a great squad. We just have to make sure we make a good start, hopefully by winning the first two games against New Zealand and Cameroon. So long as we can get out of the group, we will have a great opportunity to achieve something in the tournament. We have to aim for gold.”
Team GB fixtures
Team GB v New Zealand
Millennium Stadium, 4pm
Team GB v Cameroon
Millenium Stadium, 5.15pm
Team GB v Brazil
Wembley Stadium, 7.45pm