Soccer fans around the world will likely be delighted this summer considering how many great matches they are in for. On June 21st, all the best soccer teams from Europe will gather in… pretty much all over Europe – unlike in other years when the European Championship is hosted by a single country, this year, it will be scattered across 12 cities to celebrate the event’s 60th birthday. And soon after the crowning of the king of European football, the strikers, wingers, referees, and all non-athletes vital to sports will head over to Tokyo to measure their worth again during the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Not all soccer players can participate in the Olympics, though. One of the biggest absent will be the biggest soccer nation in the world.
No Great British men’s team at the Olympics
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, better known as the UK, is not sending any of its star athletes to Tokyo this summer. The reason for England missing the tournament seems bureaucratic.
First of all, there is no official “national team” in British men’s soccer because the country doesn’t have a national soccer league – the teams compete in the English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh Premier Leagues. There were times when the UK was represented by a unified soccer team at the Summer Olympics – sporadically, that is.
Since the UEFA Under-21 Championship serves as a qualifier for the Summer Olympics, a country with no official National Team like England has no way of participating in the event.
This doesn’t mean that the UK won’t send a soccer team to Tokyo – they will be represented by Great Britain’s women’s Olympic football team.
There’s an upper age limit
Not every soccer player gets to play at the Olympics – many of them are simply too old to do so. As per the IOC’s rules, the players’ age is cut off at 23 – all but three players in every squad have to be younger than that.
In “normal” soccer, there are separate competitions for youngsters and seasoned veterans. This year, the “seasoned veterans” will all be playing at the EURO, leaving Olympic soccer devoid of star power and attention from the fans.
True fans don’t want it
There is some anecdotal evidence saying that, while soccer was not an official Olympic sport in 1896, the first time the modern-day Olympic Games took place, an unofficial soccer tournament was held at Athens. Then, in the early 1900s, soccer became an official Olympic discipline.
Then, in 1930, the first FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay, becoming the most relevant tournament in the world of soccer. Since then, the two events – the World Cup and the Olympic soccer tournament – are held in parallel, with the former growing in relevance, while the latter… not.
There are many voices that consider that soccer shouldn’t be an Olympic sport. For most other sports, winning an Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle – for soccer, it’s pretty much irrelevant in the light of the many other competitions to be won. The two simply don’t need each other: the Olympics can do well without soccer, and soccer doesn’t need another major international competition with outdated limitations.