JOHANNESBURG – The term “over-age” will have a different meaning at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games that will be played a year late due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had no choice but to postpone the Games that were scheduled to take place in late July until early August this year in Japan due to the virus that has claimed thousands of lives.
Australia and Canada had already announced they would be pulling out of the Games if they continued as planned this year.
The postponement, with the new dates from July 23-August 8, 2021, will buy Japan and athletes time to prepare for the showpiece, which they wouldn’t have been able to do properly this year due to the numerous lockdowns across the globe.
But the delay also means that there will be a lot of men’s footballers who will be over 23 who are in the provisional squads, instead of the three that each team is granted in the over-age slot.
SA U-23 Olympic Team Head Coach David Notoane speaking on measures to protect you and your families against the COVID-19 pandemic #StayHomeSA #WarAgainstVirus #WashHands @Banyana_Banyana @BafanaBafana pic.twitter.com/WgguBzLJMA
— SAFA.net (@SAFA_net) April 2, 2020
Fifa moved quickly to address that by announcing the decision to “keep the eligibility criteria originally foreseen (players born on or after 01/01/1997) and three additional (over-age) players.”
This means that coaches like David Notoane, who will lead the South African men’s football team in the global showpiece, will still be able to call on the players who will be over 23 next year he had put on the provisional squad list for the tournament.
Fifa didn’t just stop with the Olympics.
Their working group, which was recently established by the bureau of the Fifa council to address the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, also announced the decision to postpone all international games that were due to take part in June.
Those games would have been qualifiers to the 2022 Fifa World Cup that will be staged in Qatar.
Fifa will organise discussions with confederations concerning the World Cup qualifiers in order to finalise a revised schedule pending health and safety developments.
Women’s international football matches that were due to take place in June were also postponed.
Fifa will create a sub-working group on the women’s international match calendar to consider potential changes to the calendar and dates of postponed Fifa final tournaments.
Covid-19 has thrown a spanner in the works for many sporting events, forcing cancellations, postponements and a rethink of many rules that have now been affected by the outbreak.
But should the Olympics go ahead next year, the coaches who will lead the men’s teams will not be troubled by how they accommodate the players who helped their countries qualify for the Games and will be over 23 when the tournament starts.