SEBASTIAN COE is on the right track in his mission to promote the 2012 Olympics as a great opportunity for the next generation of football’s brightest stars.

Forget any thoughts of senior players like Wayne Rooney taking part in London. Not only would it be wrong, the Games clash with the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

But the beauty of the Olympics is that the football tournament is an Under 23 event.

As Coe succinctly put it: “If you remember what the Olympic football tournament is about, I sat in the tournament final in 2004 in Athens and I watched young players like Messi making effectively their international debut. Years later they’re playing in a World Cup.

“So actually an Olympic football tournament, when it’s used as it is in a lot of countries, is a way of seasoning young players to future tournament football.

“It’s a great springboard and a number of young players have understood the nature of the international game through Olympic competition and gone on to play in World Cup finals.

“We will create and deliver a great Olympic football tournament.”

The ECA (European Clubs Association) – which Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are a part of – argue that none of their players should compete in two major tournaments so close to each other, crushing the hopes of many who would have wanted to see the likes of Jack Wilshere strutting their stuff in the biggest sporting event in the world. Unless, of course, England fail to qualify for Euro 2012.

Manchester United chief executive David Gill, also an ECA board member, made the Premier League’s position clear when he said: “A player who is in the squad for Euro 2012 should not then be in the Olympic squad.”

“Football is a key part of the Olympics and we are very happy to participate as a league and release players and we support it, but I hope that common sense will prevail.”

– BY JOHN GUBBA

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