Men’s football safe in Olympics: Blatter

RIO DE JANEIRO: FIFA and the International Olympic Committee can reach an agreement to keep men’s football in the Olympics despite a dispute over age limits, 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 games. “I don’t think football will be excluded from the Olympics,” Blatter said. “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. 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.

Blatter said the taskforce will study both options, but did not rule out the possibility of another alternative to keep football in the games. 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, adding that he will try to talk about the issue with IOC president Jacques Rogge in Copenhagen, where both will be this week for the announcement of the host city of the 2016 Olympics. The taskforce — which will include a representative of each confederation — is expected to present its findings at FIFA’s December meeting in South Africa. The women’s tournament has no age restrictions.