POSTED: August 30th 2008

Blatter to bring soccer in line

Beijing welcomes Blatter /
Beijing welcomes Blatter /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

BEIJING: FIFA president Sepp Blatter, after the confusion which threatened briefly to engulf the Games' football tournament, is determined to put the event back into coherent shape.

Blatter confirmed at a media conference in Beijing that he will ask the next FIFA executive this autumn to recommend to Congress next May that the Olympic Games be included in the international calendar. If Blatter has his way then the over-age players exception will also be scrapped.

Inserting the Olympics into the international calendar would force clubs to release selected players and prevent a repetition of the high-visibility club v country power struggle which marred the run-up to the men's tournament in Beijing.

Preparations were overshadowed by a decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport that the Games fell outside the FIFA calendar and thus clubs were not bound to release players. FIFA had already conceded that it had no power concerning over-age stars but Blatter was furious that the "regulation" under-23 players were not protected either.

Later Blatter said: "After Beijing we will review the Olympic tournament and take the necessary decisions. In London in 2012 I can say that the Olympics will be included in our international calendar so that this issue is not a problem again."

The "deal" between FIFA and the IOC permitting national team coaches to select up to three over-age players was enacted first in Atlanta in 1996 within an agreement which introduced women's soccer into the Games.

Blatter, emphasising the value of the Olympic tournament in player development, said: "Not many teams have wanted to use the option at these Games of the over-age players. My opinion is that it is time to stop."

The record attendances of 2m-plus fans at matches was a cause for Blatter to celebrate and he also congratulated the Chinese organisers, not only in Beijing but also at the other four cities which hosted matches in both the men's and women's tournaments.

Keywords · Blatter · FIFA · Argentina · over-age · under-23

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