Football has no place at the Olympics, says Pickering
Karen Pickering believes that in its current format, football should not be part of the Olympic Games
Four-time world champion swimmer Karen Pickering believes football has no place at the Olympics.
Pickering, 39, was responding to recent comments made by Arsenal manager ArsÃ¨ne Wenger, who voiced his belief that the Olympic football tournament is “not a proper competition”.
The national sides competing at the Olympics are only permitted to include three players over the age of 23 in their squads for the tournament.
And Britainâ€™s most successful swimmer feels the age cap compromises the quality of the competition.
â€œArsÃ¨ne Wenger was trying to say was that Olympics are not about football and I am inclined to agree with him,â€ Pickering told The Sport Review.
â€œI donâ€™t think football epitomises an Olympic sport because they have an age limit on it. So you donâ€™t get the greatest national teams at The Games and that, for me, is wrong.
â€œI would have less of a problem if there was no age cap and you had to have a certain number of Under-23s in your squad.
â€œI object to it being part of the Olympics because the age limit absolutely means you donâ€™t have the best team possible playing. If the best players arenâ€™t there I just wouldnâ€™t have football as an event.â€
The former Commonwealth freestyle champion pointed to tennis as an example of a mainstream sport that has adapted its format to give more significance to the Olympics â€“ since 2004, results from the Games have counted towards ATP and WTA rankings.
And Pickering feels it is important that athletes consider the Olympics as a key event in their calendar.
â€œThe ultimate goal as an athlete is the Olympics,â€ she continued.
â€œA few years ago I might have said that tennis has no place at the Olympics but having seen some of the players at the Games, I think it is an important goal.
â€œTheyâ€™ve made it part of the ranking points for that year so it becomes important in that way. So theyâ€™ve managed to raise its profile in that.
â€œIf itâ€™s not the ultimate prize in your sport Iâ€™m not entirely sure it fits into the Olympic spirit and I agree with ArsÃ¨ne Wenger that football as it stands at the moment isnâ€™t right.â€
But with football set to remain as an event at the Olympics, Pickering would still like to see a British team at next summer’s Games.
â€œI do feel we should have a British team there and I think itâ€™s a shame the home nations canâ€™t agree on that.â€
Pickering also dismissed Wengerâ€™s suggestion that the Olympics are mainly focused on track and field events.
â€œI donâ€™t agree the Oympics is all about track and field,â€ she said. â€œYou only have to have been to an Olympics to know what it means to athletes.
â€œAcross the world the passion people have for a lot of Olympic sports is unbelievable. Different sports are very well followed in different countries.â€
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