POSTED: June 10th 2010

FIFA congress hands over-age footballers the all-clear for London

Leo Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme set up a free kick on Argentina's way to Olympic success in Beijing /
Leo Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme set up a free kick on Argentina's way to Olympic success in Beijing /

KEIR RADNEDGE in South Africa / Sports Features Communications

SANDTON, Jun 10:  The intriguing possibility of some of the world's finest footballers being seen in the 2012 Olympic Games in London are still alive thanks to some back-tracking by FIFA and some sharp words from IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Proposals demanding that only players under 20 be permitted at the Games’ football finals had threatened to rule out some of the bigger names who could have taken advantage of the exception allowing three over-age players in teams with an under-23 limit.

But the proposals, from several of FIFA's regional federations, upset the IOC which feared a further erosion of credibility in Olympic tournament; the IOC has been especially sensitive after the wrangles over player release for the 2008 Games in Beijing.

FIFA's congress has approved a proposal from the executive committee to maintain the status quo despite complaints by some associations and clubs that the Olympics clashed with players’ early-season demands.

In fact, very few over-age players featured in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing though these included major 'names' such as Argentina’s Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Mascherano and Brazil’s Ronaldinho.

Clubs including Barcelona and Bayern Munich tried in vain to block some of their players taking part, because the domestic league seasons had already begun.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who had mused in Beijing that the over-age exception might be scrapped, conceded to congress in Sandton that the proposal had sparked 'a fire’ at IOC headquarters in Lausanne – and led to an ‘angry’ challenge from Rogge.

Blatter said: "I had a very angry Mr Rogge coming to Zurich, saying: 'It’s not possible, what you are trying to do?' Sometimes when we have such revolutionary ideas, wisdom and a little conservatism will be the winner.

"Anyway, if you asked any player, big players, who have participated in the Olympics – they are all happy to go to the Olympic Games. Everyone is happy to go the Olympic Games."

Keywords · London 2012 · Olympic Games · football tournament · FIFA · Blatter · Rogge

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