LONDON - Twelve women’s soccer teams will compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an increase of two from the Athens Games.
“It’s a nonsense to play with 10 teams in the women’s competition,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Sunday
Blatter said soccer’s governing body and the International Olympic Committee agreed to the change. The Olympic schedule had been criticized by FIFA and teams because one group had four teams and two groups had three. That meant some nations played three group games in six days and the others just two with a long break between.
Blatter also said FIFA will rethink automatic yellow cards for goal celebrations, and added that England players were wrong to boycott the media after their World Cup qualifying victory over Poland. He said he will make his views known to England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson on Monday.
At the Athens Games, the United States won the gold medal, beating Brazil 2-1 in the final. Both teams came from the group with four teams.
“Here we have to change and we have been given the guarantee, the consent of the IOC that there will be 12 women teams in Beijing,” Blatter said.
The FIFA president was satisfied with the men’s competition, which had 16 teams divided into four groups. The competition, however, is limited to players under 23, with three overage exceptions. FIFA insists on the restrictions so the Olympics will not rival the World Cup.
Blatter then criticized an English referee for ejecting Everton’s Tim Cahill, who pulled his shirt over his head to celebrate his winning goal at Manchester City. He was out of the game after getting his second yellow card.
“I don’t agree with the referee,” Blatter said. “If, just because you pull your shirt over your head after having scored a goal, he should never expel the player.”
Soccer’s rule-making organization issued a directive in February saying any player who removed a shirt to celebrate a goal will get a yellow card. That also applied to a player who bared his chest by pulling the shirt over his head. FIFA contended that practice was offensive in some countries.
“We, FIFA, have to absolutely clarify the definition of the word ’remove,’ which is what is now in the laws of the game,” FIFA vice president David Will said.
The English media boycott was backed by Eriksson after his players refused interviews following criticism of goalkeeper David James. His blunder cost England in a 2-2 tie in Austria a week ago and he was dropped for the game in Poland.
The England players said they would speak to the media leading to their World Cup qualifying game against Wales on Oct. 9.
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