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Page last updated at 21:48 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Europe backs U21 age limit for Olympic footballers

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi won gold for Argentina at the Beijing Olympics

Europe's football chiefs have backed a proposal to limit the age of players featuring at the Olympics to under 21.

Uefa's strategy council of clubs as well as national associations, leagues and players' unions agreed unanimously.

Fifa's ruling executive will discuss the issue in South Africa next week and will then send a report to the International Olympic Committee.

Fifa favours an under-21 event, but the IOC wants to keep the status quo of under-23s, with three over-age players.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has previously suggested reducing the age limit to 21, or abolishing the age limit but barring all players with World Cup experience.

A taskforce has been set up to examine the matter, with Blatter saying he was "sure" the dispute could be resolved.

In June, the IOC warned that football could be kicked out of the Games if Fifa stood by its plan to alter the under-23 limit.

Fifa and the IOC have been struggling to reach an agreement on player eligibility since the current rules almost prevented Barcelona's Lionel Messi from playing for Argentina in Beijing last year.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had ruled that Barcelona could recall Messi from the Games, but he was included in the national side after the player himself expressed a desire to remain in Beijing.

Messi went on to star for Argentina as they won gold.

Women's Olympic football currently has no age restrictions.

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see also
Blatter sure of Olympic agreement
30 Sep 09 |  Football
Fifa says Team GB 'poses no risk'
12 Nov 08 |  Scotland
Blatter welcomes GB football team
04 Aug 08 |  Football
Messi scores in Argentina victory
07 Aug 08 |  Football

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