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

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
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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 Arsène 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 Britain’s most successful swimmer feels the age cap compromises the quality of the competition.

“Arsène Wenger was trying to say was that Olympics are not about football and I am inclined to agree with him,” Pickering told The Sport Review.

“I don’t think football epitomises an Olympic sport because they have an age limit on it. So you don’t get the greatest national teams at The Games and that, for me, is wrong.

“I 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.

“I object to it being part of the Olympics because the age limit absolutely means you don’t have the best team possible playing. If the best players aren’t there I just wouldn’t have football as an event.”

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 – 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.

“The ultimate goal as an athlete is the Olympics,” she continued.

“A 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.

“They’ve made it part of the ranking points for that year so it becomes important in that way. So they’ve managed to raise its profile in that.

“If it’s not the ultimate prize in your sport I’m not entirely sure it fits into the Olympic spirit and I agree with Arsène Wenger that football as it stands at the moment isn’t right.”

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.

“I do feel we should have a British team there and I think it’s a shame the home nations can’t agree on that.”

Pickering also dismissed Wenger’s suggestion that the Olympics are mainly focused on track and field events.

“I don’t agree the Oympics is all about track and field,” she said. “You only have to have been to an Olympics to know what it means to athletes.

“Across the world the passion people have for a lot of Olympic sports is unbelievable. Different sports are very well followed in different countries.”

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