Many young South African footballers within the age limit were hopeful of a chance to represent their country at the Olympic Games later this year, but the postponement – forced by the spread of the Covid19 outbreak – is now a cause for concern.
The football tournament at the Games is restricted to players who are 23-years-old (born on or after 1 January 1997) with the exception of three who are overaged.
But now that the schedule has changed, SuperSport United midfielder Jamie Webber is concerned that some of those who helped the team qualify for the Olympics will no longer be eligible when the event is hosted in Tokyo next year.
“Obviously we are sad that it had to be cancelled because we have worked so hard to be there. And because we don’t know if the rules will change regarding the tournament next year,” said Webber, speaking to the Siya crew.
“You know some of the players will be ‘too old’ to play next year. But I think they should still allow these players that qualified for this year to play next year because it would be unfair towards them. It’s a very huge opportunity missed for them…and I mean it's not their fault that it won’t be happening this year. So I hope that the organisers will take that into consideration.”
Australia has already called for the age limit to be changed from u/23 to u/24 for this very reason and it remains to be seen whether other federations will join them in their efforts to have this reviewed.
Webber, who had made David Notoane’s provisional squad, does not have to worry, however, given that he will still be within the age restrictions next year and eligible.