Olympic men: Mass club boycott leaves France without its stars

Few countries have the depth of talent in men's soccer like France does.

It is famous for the talent coming out of its academy programs that attracts scouts from around the world.

It never figured to get players like Kylian Mbappe or Ousmane Dembele, both eligible as under-23 players, for the Olympic men's soccer tournament.

But head coach Sylvain Ripoli had to reach down into Ligue 2 for players because of a mass boycott of the Olympics by Ligue 1 clubs.

Things were so bad the French federation had to go to FIFA and get a waiver after it could not assemble a roster -- 18 players plus four alternates -- from the required provisional short list of 50 players.

And that was just the beginning.

When Ripoli named his squad -- 21 players, only 19 of them he'd take to Japan -- 11 players were quickly withdrawn because clubs would not release them.

It began when French clubs Rennes (Eduardo Camavinga), Nice (Amine Gouiri) and Monaco (Benoit Badiashile) refused to release their players, and it spread from there.

Camavinga debuted for France at the age of 17 in 2020, becoming the youngest player to play for French senior team since 1914. Other players held out included Arsenal defender William Saliba, Chelsea defender Malang Sarr, Lyon midfielder Maxence Caqueret and Lille forward Jonathan Ikone.

France retained only three players from the team that qualified from the 2019 UEFA U-21 Championship.

Clubs don't have to release players to the Olympic men's soccer competition because the tournament is not included on FIFA's international match calendar, just like the U-20 and U-17 World Cups. In Olympic men's soccer, teams are allowed to bring three over-age players.

France selected Andre-Pierre Gignac, a star at Mexican club Tigres for many years, and his new club teammate, 2018 World Cup champion Florian Thauvin, and Montpellier's Teji Savanier.

2 comments about "Olympic men: Mass club boycott leaves France without its stars".
  1. Santiago 1314, July 18, 2021 at 10:56 p.m.

    What a Disgrace it is,  that FIFA and IOC can't get their "Dates" together... Imagine what the US Olympic team would have Looked Like.!!!

  2. Tom G, July 19, 2021 at 9:42 p.m.

    what a soap opera... when IOC and FIFA,  "high and mighty, square off, it's at everyone else's expense.   all they care about is money and their perks. Solve the problem... hmmm ... return to pure amateur status for Olympic participation... never will happen. 

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