Friday, August 8, 2008

Let the Games Dribble!

Today on 8.8.8 at 8 past 8 local time (approximately 8 minutes before I have started typing this), the opening games ceremony for the Olympics would have kicked off in Beijing. The Olympics though started a few days ago with the ladies and men both starting off in their quest for the football gold about the time the other athletes were beginning to pour in.

It has been a routine procedure now for clubs to groan in protest every time their players get called for national duty. While the Olympics would not be the tournament that pains the clubs the most, given the under-23 with three over age players rule, the run-up to these games have seen the club v country debate raise its head again. This has partly been due to the star status of the players involved (both under and over 23 years old) but largely due to the clubs taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and the subsequent ruling in favour of the clubs.

It appears that FIFA had over-stepped its authority in dictating to clubs that they cannot prevent an under 23 player from representing their country in the games. CAS ruled that since the Olympics were not covered under the official fixture calendar of FIFA, they were not in a position to dictate terms to the clubs, who after all pay the salaries and risk losing their players to injury and fatigue.

While Blatter expressed disappointment and invoked the ‘Olympic spirit’, it is the reaction from the clubs so far that has been encouraging and positive. As of now, none of the clubs have recalled their major stars with Barcelona chief Laporta even wishing Messi the best of luck, now that the point has been made to FIFA.

One hopes that all other clubs follow suit and let their stars remain at the games. Messi has already scored and Ronaldinho seems to have had a decent first competitive outing, which raises our hopes of seeing him back at his best before long. The clubs, having scored one over FIFA can now completely gain the upper hand in this debate by winning public approval. And for FIFA, it is a window of opportunity to resolve the issue before it raises its head again in London ’12.

Will they take decisive action and incorporate the Olympics into their official fixtures list or utilize their time in getting any required new regulation approved is to be seen. One thing’s for sure, if the clubs find themselves in a similar position again, it will be hardly surprising if they pull their players out mid-way through the first half of a game.

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