Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why is Uefa imposing an U-21 age limit on Olympic football?

At a meeting in Nyon, Switzerland today, Uefa decided to oppose the long held tradition of fielding players under 23 years to the Men's Olympic football tournament.

The question for me is WHY?

Unfortunately, the official statement gave no reason:

"After a full discussion on the subject the PFSC unanimously agreed that the principle of participation at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament should be for under 21 players, and not for players up to the age of 23, and that there should be provision for any overage players."

Traditionally, men's football at the Olympics employs the criteria stated above (plus 3 players over 23 years for every team to enhance the talent in the teams and also to bring appeal to the competition.)

I am not clear as to why Uefa's executives want this to be done but I know they have been pushing the idea for a long time, notably after Beijing '08.

Here is a continent that does not even fully patronise the underaged football competitions - think under 17, under 20 - because they feel the dominant South American and African teams cheat by 'fielding men instead of boys' (Brazil, Argentina, Ghana, Nigeria etc).

However this is not the case for the Olympic version, as the winners of this one are pretty evenly spread across the globe.

Whatever the case may be, the International Olympic Committee wants to keep the status quo and is at moment opposed to Uefa's advances. So what we're about to witness would be a battle of political manoeuvring.

But the reality is that Uefa may yet have the last laugh at the Fifa level as they hold 8 of the 24 ruling Executive Committee seats.

Fifa would discuss this issue at its next meeting in South Africa in a week's time, after which they must submit a report to the IOC - also to convene from Dec 9-11.

From an African perspective, let's not forget that the two Olympic medals the continent has won via Nigeria and Cameroon were boosted greatly by the presence of the experienced overaged players.

At the last Beijing olympics players like Osaze Odemwingie and Oluwafemi Ajilore (Nigeria) helped their efforts at reaching the finals. And then there was the presence of Salomon Kalou, Hervé Kambou and Sekou Cissé for the Ivory Coast.

My take? Uefa should take a piss and let things be. What do you think?