Men’s football will not be excluded from the Olympics because of discrepancies over age limits, and FIFA and the International Olympic Committee can reach an agreement on the issue, president Sepp Blatter said.
Blatter said FIFA has a taskforce discussing the eligibility criteria of players, but dismissed any concerns that a failed agreement with the IOC would keep men’s football from the Olympics.
“I don’t think football will be excluded from the Olympics,” Blatter said after a FIFA executive committee meeting.
“I think there is a lot of commonsense when speaking of the IOC. They have responsibilities toward the international federations and we have responsibilities toward the Olympics.”
FIFA favours dropping the age limit to 21 instead of the current 23, or even abolishing the limit but barring all players with World Cup experience from participating. The IOC would like to keep the age limit at 23 with the exception of three overage players, but Europe’s top clubs want FIFA to make the tournament an under-21 event. The IOC says that would diminish the quality of the tournament.
Blatter said the taskforce will study both options, but did not rule out the possibility of another alternative to keep football in the tournament.
FIFA and the IOC have struggled to reach an agreement on player eligibility since current rules almost prevented Barcelona star Lionel Messi from leading Argentina to the gold medal in Beijing last year.
“Olympic football is very attractive for the Olympic Games,” Blatter said. “We have a huge and large history in the Olympic Games. More than 100 years of participation. I’m sure we can (overcome) the difficulties which may have (surfaced) in the past.”
He added that he doesn’t see an end to this “love story” of football in the Olympics.
“This will not happen, I’m sure,” Blatter said.
The taskforce is expected to present its findings at FIFA’s December meeting in South Africa. The women’s Olympic tournament is played with no age restrictions.