Football to revert to U-23 format after 2017 SEA Games
SEA Games football will be U-22 affair in KL
The age limit of the 2017 South-east Asia (SEA) Games men's football competition will be lowered to an Under-22 tournament , but the move will only be a one-off.
Following the Olympic Council of Malaysia's (OCM) technical meeting on Wednesday, the decision was made to change from the current Under-23 format, which was incorporated in 2001.
In response to queries from the The New Paper, OCM secretary general Low Beng Choo said: "The appeal for the change of age group came from our FAM (Football Association of Malaysia), other NOCs (National Olympic Committees), as well as the AFF (Asean Football Federation) on various grounds... this change is only for SEA Games 2017."
Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) secretary general Chris Chan confirmed that subsequent Games would revert to the U-23 format.
The New Paper first reported on the possible lowering of the age-limit in 2014, after a proposal was put forth by the AFF.
Last November, both TNP and football website FourFourTwo quoted AFF general secretary Azzuddin Ahmad as saying that there was an in-principle agreement internally to push forth a proposal to convert the 2017 SEA Games competition to an U-21 one.
The AFF member associations have written to their respective NOCs, who will raise the matter for approval at the SEA Games Federation (SEAGF) meeting next week.
Contacted by TNP yesterday, Azzuddin said the plan was always to lower the age limit to U-22.
He said: "We expected the SEAGF to approve our proposal anyway, it is the only logical thing to do.
"The teams will be involved in the qualifiers for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Under-23 Championship and the Olympics next year, and it wouldn't make sense to prepare one team for these qualifiers, and another for the SEA Games.
"(As for the one-off change), we will look at the Fifa calendar in the future and propose accordingly."
No dates have been fixed for the next edition of the biennial AFC U-23 Championship, which Qatar hosted last month.
Qualification for this year's tournament - which doubles up as the Asian qualifiers for the Rio Olympics - took place last year.
In preparation for next year's SEA Games, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has roped in predominantly U-21 players for the Garena Young Lions (GYL) team competing in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League this term.
Previously, the Young Lions were an U-23 side that formed the bulk of the Singapore SEA Games team.
Said an FAS spokesman said: "We wish to reiterate that all eligible young players, and not just players from the GYL, will be considered for the SEA Games squad next year.
"Coach Patrick Hesse's job as head coach of GYL is to focus on the development of the players in the GYL squad, instead of the SEA Games squad.
"Richard Tardy, head coach of national youth teams, will take charge of the U-21 national team for now."
The 28th SEA games held last year presented a unique opportunity where Singapore athletes could compete in front of a home crowd and, for this reason, we deliberately expanded the selection policy to include more athletes to participate. for the 2017 SEAA games, the SNOC will probably resume the selection criteria it has had for the overseas major games where athletes are selected to compete and not just participate.
— Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) secretary general Chris Chan says selection will be tougher for next year’s KL SEA Games