3 Ways to Improve Olympic Football
Football at the Olympics is generally considered a useless tournament in the game. But there are ways to improve the competition and make it more meaningful to all.
It's really interesting that a gold medal at the Olympics is something most football fans seem to care little for.
This year's edition brought increased interest due to the likes of Neymar, Juan Mata and Ryan Giggs being involved, but that didn't work for some folks.
Here are three ways to improve Olympic Football.
Require Clubs to Let Players Go
FIFA took a good step towards requiring clubs to release players this year, but there were still instances where players and clubs got out of of participating.
Borussia Mochengladbach did not tangle with FIFA over their new signing Granit Xhaka, but came to an agreement with the Swiss Football Association.
Gareth Bale got some stick for claiming he was unable to participate due to injury, but was seen playing for Tottenham in a friendly a few days later.
When national team associations are willing to let players out of the Olympics, it shows how little folks care about the competition.
Lionel Messi is a prime example of a star player who actually wanted to participate in the Olympics and eventually got his wish.
Before him, many great players such as Michel Platini and Romario also played at the Olympics.
If it becomes commonplace for star players to participate in future Olympics, then teams will be the strongest they can be.
Make It Open to All Ages
This is the most obvious way to make the competition better, but it's unlikely to happen.
There are already a number of highly talented players under the age of 23 participating in the competition this year, such as Neymar, Gaston Ramirez and Jack Butland, but just imagine if all the teams participating were at their strongest.
The European teams would still be a bit diluted due to the European Championships, but the coaches would have a much greater pool of talent to draw from.
Of course, FIFA would have a problem with this as it would make the competition almost like a second Word Cup, but a distinction could still be made, especially considering that football would not be the main spectacle at the Games.
The Olympics is about the best athletes showing their skills for their countries and fans are not getting that with football.
At the most, it would be a mini-version of the World Cup, considering only 16 teams participate as opposed to 32.
FIFA Taking the Tournament More Seriously
The Olympics is now actually on FIFA's calender, which is a step up from previous years. If FIFA chose to use the two previously mentioned ideas it would signal they were treating the tournament seriously.
The football world would still make the distinction between the World Cup and the Olympics, but there would be more interest from participants and viewers if the best players were available.
That starts with FIFA making their intentions clear concerning the tournament.