Today in meaningless conflict: Gareth Bale could draw FIFA’s ire

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Nobody should be compelled to participate in the Olympics. I think we can all agree with this, right? I’ll confess, it’s a strange scenario – a person having the talent to compete in the games but electing not to do so. But if somebody doesn’t want to do it, why make them? It sounds like a recipe for some pretty crappy performances.

Sepp Blatter doesn’t care about that, part of the reason he’s threatening to ban Gareth Bale from Tottenham’s preseason preparations. Bale was selected by Stuart Pearce for Team GB but pulled out with injury. Last night, Bale scored in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, a strangely high level of proficiency for somebody too hurt to participate in the Olympics. To Blatter, it looks like Bale’s shunning a callup to a FIFA-sanctioned event; hence, his ire. According to Blatter, if the English FA wants to make a big deal out of it (and formally complain), Bale could be banned.

Which is ridiculous. This isn’t Luka Modric – a contracted player – walking out of camp. This is voluntary, international duty. We want players to take that seriously, but that’s just because we like international soccer. Not-so-deep down, we know there’s no obligation, so when we get the rare Paul Scholes or Brad Friedel who says it’s not worth his time, we moan and move on. We don’t start thumbing through FIFA statutes looking for a cat o’ nine tails to punish them.

Then there’s the whole Team GB issue. Wales isn’t playing in the Olympics. Team GB is, so you can excuse Bale if he doesn’t want to roll the dice on his season (and, if he really was slightly injured, World Cup qualifying for the actual Wales national team) for a team that doesn’t really exist …

Outside this strange thing we call men’s Olympic soccer. Blatter threatening to ban Bale doesn’t make the thing any less surreal.