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So Spain, with Pedri, Marco Asensio, Pau Torres and Dani Olmo Valentino Rossi Retirement Hand Signature The Doctor 46 Original shirt . have sent pretty much an international-strength squad. France have a bunch of academy prospects captained by the 51-year-old Tigres striker André-Pierre Gignac. New Zealand have called up Chris Wood and Winston Reid. Manchester United seem quite happy to relinquish control of Eric Bailly to Ivory Coast for several weeks.What is the meaning of all this? What does football add to the Olympics other than swelling an already packed programme in a variety of distant satellite venues? What does the Olympics add to football other than stuffing a few more fixtures into an already packed calendar?
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All sport thrives on context and Olympic men’s football has existed for more than a century in a curious vacuum, largely devoid of narratives, storylines, defining moments or teams Valentino Rossi Retirement Hand Signature The Doctor 46 Original shirt . Italy haven’t taken part since 2008. Belgium and the Netherlands have featured once between them in the past 70 years. Cameroon won gold in 2000 and nonsensically weren’t allowed to defend their title in 2004. The great Uruguayan team of the 1920s won consecutive gold medals in Paris and Amsterdam and then didn’t come back for 84 years.I don’t quite subscribe to the maxim that the Olympics need to be the pinnacle of a sport for it to be worth its place: tennis and road cycling offer two arresting counterarguments. But it does have to feel like a meaningful part of the whole, an enterprise into which the sport itself is invested, where the value of a medal is broadly accepted by fans, governing bodies and above all the players. Through the postwar amateur era, the years of Soviet-bloc dominance and the current unsatisfactory compromise by which squads are staffed by whoever picks up the phone, this has probably never been the case.Naturally, whenever anyone suggests scrapping any longstanding event or convention you get the usual howls of protest. And perhaps there are ways of reforming Olympic football: a dedicated slot in the calendar, a more intelligible qualification process, doing away with over-age players.But the acid test of its worth is this: if, somehow, the rest of the Olympic men’s football tournament were quietly shelved, the medals put back in a drawer, the players discreetly spirited back on an overnight plane, would anyone really notice? Exactly.This article was amended on 27 July 2021. It was the France v South Africa match that ended 4-3, not France v Mexico as a previous version said. André-Pierre Gignac’s age had also been corrected from 51 to 35 shortly after first publication; this unwittingly spoilt the writer’s joke and the original has been restored.
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