Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Soccer's Eternal Olympic Mess
by Paul Gardner, February 5th, 2009 7AM
Subscribe to SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

Yawn, yawn, YAWN!!. Here we go again, wrestling with soccer's eternal Olympic mess. The details are always the same -- which players should be permitted to play in the tournament? The overall question -- should the tournament be dropped from the Olympics? -- hovers always in the background.

To show you that nothing is new, we go back nine years, to 2000. The Sydney games were approaching, with the soccer tournament to be played under bizarre regulations: players had to be under-23 years of age, except that each team could field three over-age players. Juan Antonio Samaranch let it be known that he wanted each team to field up to seven overagers. No way, replied FIFA boss Sepp Blatter. From on high floated down a royal opinion from Princess Anne, the President of the British national Olympic committee, who wanted soccer, and all team sports, banned.

Princess Anne did not get her way, though hers was the obvious remedy for all the problems. The crazy regulations are still in effect, and FIFA is still trying to define the Olympic player. Blatter now says that "The Olympic Games are for youth." Where he gets that idea from, who knows. But acting on that thought, he proceeds: "We should play them with the youngsters."

So he trashes the idea of overage players -- "It's illogical. We're going to abolish that" -- and says the overall age level should be reduced to 21. Meaning, in effect, a four-yearly under-21 World Cup.

Blatter is now promoting Olympic soccer as a "youth tournament." What effect that will have on the attendances at Olympic soccer games (which have always been played in jammed stadiums), who knows.

But is Blatter correct to use the word "youth"? Hardly.

Reminder: FIFA already has an U-20 World Cup, which is played every two years. Until 2005, that tournament was officially the FIFA World Youth Championship. Not any more. It is now called the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. A sensible change of wording because most of the players in the U-20 World Cup are contracted to pro clubs, some of them are already first team players receiving lavish salaries. The game they play is definitely not "youth soccer." Those players, of course, are the stars, the very ones that the national teams particularly want to call up, and the very ones that the pro clubs don't want to release.

Whenever Blatter speaks out it's worthwhile noting if he is visiting a foreign country. These Olympic pronouncements came when Blatter was in Brazil, and it needs to be noted that Brazil and Argentina, in particular, have squawked pretty loudly over the under-23 age grouping, having had immense problems getting European clubs to release players. Sure enough, Brazil and Argentina could expect some benefit from a lowering of the Olympic qualifying age.

The European clubs do plenty of squawking, too. Last year's Beijing Olympics saw an almighty row between Argentina and Barcelona over the release of Lionel Messi. Barcelona even took the dispute to CAS (the court of arbitration for sport); it won its case, though by that time Messi was already in China, helping Argentina to its second straight Olympic title.

FIFA, no doubt, would prefer to avoid such confrontations (it lost this one mainly because it had omitted to include the Olympic games on the list of events for which players must be released).

Knocking the age level down to 21 will ease the release problem somewhat. Further relief could be obtained by making the U-20 World Cup an under-19 event, which would also have the benefit of distancing it slightly more from the newly under-21 Olympics. Having done that, the next logical step would be to lower the age of the U-17 World Cup to under-16. That move was suggested to me some five years ago by the Argentine under-17 coach Hugo Tocalli. It sounded sensible then, it sounds more sensible today. At least FIFA would then have an event to which it could truly apply the word "youth."



0 comments
  1. David Sirias
    commented on: February 5, 2009 at 1:13 p.m.
    Amen to all these recommendations. The olympics would still have flair as a pure U-21. It would be a showcase of the next generation of stars. The other modifications are a logical extension of that change and indeeed make sense. The current structure is ridiculous.
  1. Alvaro Bettucchi
    commented on: February 5, 2009 at 1:58 p.m.
    I SUGGEST HAVING "UNDER 21" PLAYERS FOR THE OLYMPICS, WITH THE ADDITION, THAT NO UNDER 21 YEAR OLD HAS PLAYED FOR THE REGULAR SENIOR NATIONAL TEAM.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
Chuck Blazer 1945-2017: The Fatally Flawed Friend     
The tragedy that was Chuck Blazer is now over. And tragedy it assuredly was, a good ...
New medical study shows FIFA protocol is being ignored    
To laugh ... or to cry? There is no middle course here, no way of dodging ...
The Gnat's Eyebrow and other VAR stupidities     
The trial of video-assistance for referees currently under way at the Confederations Cup in Russia cannot ...
That Goal    
It was Pele who started the "soccer is beauty" theme. He titled his autobiography -- one ...
Tab Ramos paints a rosy American future in the changing U-20 World Cup -- but a U-18 World Cup would make more sense     
Tab Ramos has been talking in glowing terms of his team and its adventures at the ...
What's this? A goalkeeper penalized for rough play?     
Meet Sorin Stoica. Maybe you've seen him in action during MLS games. Not a highly paid ...
Scots wha hae! Thoughts on the sad and ominous decline of Scottish soccer    
I note, with considerable exasperation tempered by sadness, that Scottish soccer is experimenting with a marvelous ...
Celebrity coaches -- who needs them?     
I am still finding it difficult to come to terms with the extraordinary way in which ...
Wenger must stay -- even the stats agree     
Arsene Wenger should stay. That's what I think. And I think that way because I respect ...
Violent Goalkeeping (Part 2): FIFA must radically rethink the goalkeeper's role    
Last time, I asked: "What action has soccer taken to at least reduce the incidence of ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives