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FIFA Wants Younger Olympic Players

November 12, 1997

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Olympic soccer may revert to being restricted to players under 23 years old.

World soccer’s ruling body, intent on protecting the supremacy of its World Cup, proposes dropping the provision that allows teams to field three players over 23.

FIFA said Wednesday it will ask its executive board to reinstate the rule limiting the competition to players under 23. If approved, as expected, the rule will take effect for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The move will further strain relations between FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.

The provision allowing three over-age players was made for the 1996 Atlanta Games at the urging of the IOC, which had sought to improve what has mostly been a youth competition. But most European countries fielded under-23 teams anyway because club teams were reluctant to release top players.

The FIFA committee also announced the allocation of berths for the Sydney competition.

Australia qualifies automatically as host, as does defending champion Nigeria. There will be four more spots for Africa, two for South America, two for the region representing North and Central America and the Caribbean and three for Asia. The third team to qualify from Asia will compete in a playoff against the top team from Oceania.

For the women’s tournament, the eight finalists will consist of Australia and the top seven from the 1998 World Cup in the United States.

The men’s Olympic final will be played at the main Olympic stadium in Sydney, with the women’s final at the Sydney Football Ground.

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