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London – Gareth Bale's return from injury was welcomed by the head of the British Olympic Association as he rejected suggestions from Fifa chief Sepp Blatter the winger risked a ban by playing for Tottenham during London 2012.
Welsh star Bale was included in the Great Britain squad for the Olympic football tournament but withdrew last month after suffering a back injury during training.
However, he played for Tottenham, his English Premier League club – and scored a goal – in a pre-season friendly against the Los Angeles Galaxy, the club of former England captain David Beckham, in California on Tuesday.
Blatter said Wednesday that if Fifa received an official complaint then the 23-year-old Bale could be banned from Spurs duty, including friendlies, until August 12.
But British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Colin Moynihan said Thursday that Blatter needed to “get closer to Team GB” and invited the Swiss to join him on his early morning London Underground commute to Olympic Park.
Bale's return from injury was seen as fresh evidence of the low regard for the Olympic football tournament among many Premier League clubs, concerned their high-paid stars could be injured in the Games ahead of a new season.
However, Moynihan said while he “understood the response from some football fans” who had a cynical view of Bale's withdrawal, he did not think the British football team had been let down by the Welshman.
“My view is different, I welcome the fact he (Bale) has recovered from injury earlier than expected,” said Moynihan. “I don't agree with Sepp Blatter's comments about banning him.
“I think Sepp Blatter needs to get closer to Team GB and join me on the Jubilee line (on the London Underground system) in the morning.”
Moynihan's comments were backed up by British chef de mission Andy Hunt, who said manager Stuart Pearce had selected his squad based on “fitness and form”.
Hunt added: “You can't ever predict recovery from injury. Gareth, in some ways, is missing an amazing opportunity. He wasn't fit at the time.
“You see the comments back from the players. Their eyes have been opened to the importance of the Olympics.”
Meanwhile, Hunt was pressed on why the BOA had demanded the medical records of injured triple-jumper Phillips Idowu and not those of Bale.
“There's a very simple difference,” Hunt said.
“Phillips is selected for the team. Gareth wasn't selected because he wasn't available.”
He added: “We leave the selection down to the sports.
“It's not for me to interfere with the selection process.”
The Great Britain men's football team will play their first Olympic match for 52 years when they face Senegal at Old Trafford later on Thursday. – Sapa-AFP