Tottenham's Gareth Bale seems to have caused a stir with his actions over the past few days.
In case you missed it, Bale dropped out of Team Great Britain's Olympic squad a few weeks ago due to a back injury.
And yet yesterday, the Welshman played 74 minutes with Tottenham in a preseason match with the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center and even scored his side's only goal.
Clearly, fans of Team GB have every right to a bit upset about this turn of events. After all, it is slightly suspicious that Bale dropped out of the team due to injury, but is playing for his club before the tournament has even started. Perhaps his commitment to the team can (and should) be questioned.
But the story took a strange turn today when FIFA president Sepp Blatter commented on the subject (UKPA via Google):
So far nobody came to FIFA to say we should, but it is a possibility we could ban these players if they are not at the disposal of the national team.
They (the FA) complain and then we say let this player go or he cannot play for the club.
As usual, Blatter's interpretation of justice is ludicrous in this matter.
For one thing, it is unclear that Bale's actions were really taken with the intention to get out of the Olympics.
While the circumstances are suspicious, the midfielder's loyalties must lie with his club. Hence, any hint of discomfort can be a good excuse to drop out.
Furthermore, the match yesterday was a preseason match. Even if a player is slightly injured, the lax atmosphere of such a match makes it conducive for a player to test himself and even speed the rehab.
Talking to Spurs TV Online, Bale said of the match:
After about 65 minutes my calf started to cramp up a bit but it was a good workout. It was one that I needed and it was good to get a goal as well.
My rehab's gone very well at the club - we are well ahead of schedule.
I am glad to be back. It's important to get a pre-season under my belt for the season forthcoming so I am just delighted to be back now without any problems.
Those remarks speak to a player who was looking to get over a real injury, not one who was looking to get out of an international obligation.
Another thing, is that this Team Great Britain is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It is understandable for Bale to feel no connection to the team. Gareth has always identified himself as a Welshman and has already tallied 33 caps with Wales, so it makes sense that joining a "Great Britain" team that is filled mostly with Englishmen and is based out of London might be unappealing.
Finally, even if Bale did in fact skip out on the Olympic team, he committed no action for which he should be punished.
Every player, injured or not, has the right to turn down his country's call-up to the Olympic team and many have done so just this year. So Bale certainly shouldn't be punished for not playing for Team GB when able.
And even if he did lie, so what? If FIFA were to punish every player for lying about what side they were looking to play for, there might not be enough players on certain clubs to field a starting lineup.
Now, thankfully, according to ESPN Soccernet, the FA has made it clear that they will not pursue any action toward Gareth.
However, the mere fact that this was a question is ridiculous.
How would FIFA justify such a punishment if the opportunity were to arise for them to administer it?
Though I guess there really is no need to justify anything when you hold the absolute power of Blatter.
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