FA unmoved by calls to ban Gareth Bale during London 2012 Olympics
Fifa press for sanctions after 'injured' winger plays for club following Olympics pull-out
The Football Association believes that any attempt to get Gareth Bale banned from playing for Tottenham Hotspur, having withdrawn from the Olympics through injury, would be petty and counter-productive, despite the Fifa president Sepp Blatter declaring that the 23-year-old could receive such a penalty during the Games.
Blatter effectively encouraged the FA to lodge a complaint yesterday when he said that Bale could be banned from playing until 12 August, having withdrawn from Stuart Pearce's Team GB squad with a back injury, only to play for Tottenham on their pre-season tour of the United States, scoring against LA Galaxy in Carson, California. "The principle is that if a club does not release a player then this association can come to Fifa and we will then ban this player during the duration of the Olympics," Blatter said. "It is a possibility we could ban these players if they are not at the disposal of the national team. Fifa's position has never been so clear than it is now for the Olympics 2012 and 2016."
But though the GB team manager Stuart Pearce has expressed dissatisfaction that he has been unable to call up fringe members of the England Euro 2012 squad, in the way that Spain's Vicente del Bosque has, he will not press the FA to act on Blatter's comments. The governing body sees no benefit in such a move, which would serve only to create a controversy around the 18-man squad who have eased smoothly towards tonight's opener with Senegal without either the controversies or injuries which hit Roy Hodgson's preparations for the European Championships. The most severe sanction Fifa could impose would bar Bale only from Spurs' pre-season matches – on tour in the United States against Liverpool and New York Red Bulls, Watford at Vicarage Road and Valencia at the Mestalla. The FA considers that to be an insignificant sanction which is not worth making waves over.
Aaron Ramsey, who is in Pearce's squad said last the Spring that Bale and he both wanted to play for Pearce, despite the Wales FA's unhappiness with the idea, fearing as they do for their independent identity. But Bale's withdrawal saw him come under attack yesterday. The former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage posted on Twitter: "So a legend like [Ryan] giggs plays for the GB team , but bale, who pulls out with injury, scores for spurs last night, is that right? Wales capt [Aaron] ramsey, most decorated player giggs, prem league winner [Micah] richards, does bale think he's better than that even if he is class!" Gary Lineker also used Twitter to state: "Gareth Bale who pulled out of the Olympics through injury played for Spurs last night. Once in a lifetime opportunity thrown away #baffled."
The Tottenham manager, Andre Villas-Boas, tried to justify Bale's appearance. "He came back to us during this week, so [we had to] control the amount of effort he could put in. Gareth is extremely young and physically a beast, so he was able to put on the effort, and we extended [his time] because we want him to complete a certain amount of minutes before we start the season. We just welcome his recovery – that is the most important thing for me. To have a player of this dimension available is fantastic."
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