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FIFA raise age limit for Tokyo Olympics men’s football after postponement

Similar opportunities, one year later

In this photo illustration the 2020 Tokyo Olympics logo seen... Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

One of the more fascinating sports questions during these strange times is how will the cancelation or delay or certain events, especially those of the non-annual kind such as the Tokyo Olympics moving to 2021, affect the athletes who were set to participate in them.

For example, to look not too far away from Chelsea, how will the postponement of Euro 2020 to next summer affect the participation of Olivier Giroud? That tournament defined the 33-year-old’s plans, hopes, and desires for the past 6-9 months and were the singular motivating factor for his January (non-)transfer saga. He was set to play a key role in France trying to do a World Cup and Euro double, but that might not happen now even if France head coach Didier Deschamps stubbornly sticks to his guns.

The situation is more drastic in other fields and disciplines. The Summer Olympics only comes around every four years, for example, and its men’s football tournament is usually restricted to players 23 and under. It may not be the most prestigious football tournament, but to many, it’s not far behind the World Cup or the various continental championships — and the window to participate in this one is much more limited.

In light of the extraordinary circumstances however, FIFA have therefore decided to extend the age limit by one year for next summer’s games, keeping the men’s tournament open to the same group of players as before, now defined as 24 and under (i.e. born 1997 or later) — though technically, there will now be an additional set of up and coming young players who could push those older ones. As before, three overage players will be allowed, which how Chelsea’s Mikel John Obi played in Rio for Nigeria in 2016.

England did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, which will rule out many potential Chelsea participants, but this will be welcome news to the players eligible for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, Ivory Coast, Japan, New Zealand, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Spain.

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