olympic games committee rethinks football age limits
olympic games committee rethinks football age limits

After having to postpone the 2020 Olympics, FIFA has rethought the football age limit. The age limit has now been relaxed to accommodate older players.

Olympics Relax Football Age Limit

On 24 March, the International Olympics Committee bowed to the inevitable and officially postponed the 2020 Summer Olympics. With no indication of how long the world would remain gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, they had no other choice. If the outbreak has not subsided by June, bringing athletes and spectators from all over the world together in Tokyo would be either foolhardy or simply impossible.

The news was a bigger blow to some athletes than others. FIFA places no age restriction on women’s football at the Olympics, for instance, but male footballers must be 23 or younger to compete, according to FIFA rules. For many young footballing stars in their prime, but about to turn 24 later in the year, the news was a crippling blow. FIFA has since resurrected their crushed hopes, however, by relaxing the age limit.

Cut-off Age Now 24

On 4 April, FIFA announced that the age limit for men’s football at the 2021 Olympics would be extended to 24. This will allow players who were getting their last chance at an Olympics in 2020 to compete. The Under-23 football tournament scheduled before the Summer Olympics will also be shifted to 2021, and players who turn 24 this year will be allowed to play in that competition, too.

According to a report, the change in age limit isn’t really a change at all. FIFA has simply stuck to the wording of the original rules: that any player born after 1 January 1997 is eligible to compete in the next Summer Olympics.

Women’s World Cups Delayed

The global pandemic brought havoc across all sporting disciplines, as physical distancing, quarantines and government isolation measures took hold. Large crowds of sports fans were identified as potential disease vectors, resulting in events being shut down across the board. After dithering for some weeks, the IOC and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo reached a joint agreement in late March to postpone the Summer Games for a year.

FIFA has also cancelled two women’s football tournaments originally scheduled for 2020, leaving players with little to do but stay home and find the best pokies app to keep them entertained while under quarantine. The Women’s Under-20 World Cup was set to take place in Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and India was meant to host the Women’s Under-17 World Cup in November. Both competitions will now take place in 2021, although new dates have not yet been announced.

Over-age Players Allowed

The 16 nations due to compete in men’s football at the 2021 Olympics include hosts Japan and current champions Brazil, plus Germany, France, Spain, Argentina, Egypt, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Romania, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Two teams are yet to be determined, once the 2020 CONCACAF qualifiers can be played.

In addition to the increased age limit of 24, teams will also be allowed to include 3 over-age players in their squads. The new date for the 2021 Olympics has yet to be finalised, but FIFA’s response to the coronavirus postponements goes a long way towards ensuring that the best teams possible will be competing in this international showcase.

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