Sunday 25 February 2018

Gareth Bale to escape Olympic censure after playing for Spurs

Gareth Bale gestures a heart shape after scoring against the Los Angeles Galaxy
Gareth Bale gestures a heart shape after scoring against the Los Angeles Galaxy

Simon Stone and Martyn Ziegler

GREAT Britain manager Stuart Pearce will not be making a complaint to FIFA about Gareth Bale's withdrawal from Olympic duty with a back injury.

Bale was not selected in Pearce's 18-man squad after reporting that he would not be fit enough to take part.

Yet, with GB set to take on Senegal in their opening game at Old Trafford tomorrow, the 23-year-old played and scored for his club in their pre-season match with the Los Angeles Galaxy in the US last night.

It immediately led to a string of complaints, with former Wales skipper Robbie Savage and England striker Gary Lineker expressing their surprise at Bale's presence on Tottenham's tour.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter weighed into the argument, claiming that he would be willing to sanction Bale being suspended until the end of Olympic competition on August 12 should the FA lodge an official objection.

However, it is now understood that will not happen.

Aside from the fact it would look exceptionally petty given Bale would not miss any competitive matches even if he was suspended, Pearce is eager to maintain his focus on tomorrow evening's game.

In addition, he does not believe generating attention around what he sees as a side issue is the best way forward given the potential for drawing publicity away from today’s opening Olympic event, GB women's group opener against New Zealand in Cardiff.

It has also been pointed out that, following this morning's final training session, Pearce's initial 18-man squad remains intact, unlike Roy Hodgson, who lost four members of his Euro 2012 to injury before a ball had been kicked.

The FA and British Olympic Association have not commented on Bale's appearance, but Mr Blatter earlier said if there was an official complaint to FIFA then the 23-year-old could be banned for playing again for Spurs - even in friendlies - until August 12.

Asked about Bale, Mr Blatter said: "The principle is that if a club does not release a player then this association can come to FIFA and we will then ban this player during the duration of the Olympics.

"So far nobody came to FIFA to say we should, but it is a possibility we could ban these players if they are not at the disposal of the national team.

"They (the association) complain and then we say let this player go or he cannot play for the club. FIFA's position has never been so clear than it is now for the Olympics 2012 and 2016."

Mr Blatter admitted that some countries such as Switzerland had not insisted on clubs releasing players but that all were entitled to.

After making his comeback, Bale said his rehabilitation from a back injury was "well ahead of schedule".

He told Spurs TV Online: "After about 65 minutes my calf started to cramp up a bit but it was a good workout. It was one that I needed and it was good to get a goal as well.

"My rehab's gone very well at the club - we are well ahead of schedule.

"I am glad to be back. It's important to get a pre-season under my belt for the season forthcoming so I am just delighted to be back now without any problems.''

Bale came under fire on Twitter today, with former Wales star Robbie Savage posting: "So A legend like [Ryan] giggs plays for the GB team , but bale who pulls out with injury scores for spurs last night , is that right ?

"Wales capt [Aaron] Ramsey, most decorated player giggs , prem league winner [Micah] Richards , does bale think he's better than that even if he is class !"

Former England captain Gary Lineker posted: "Gareth Bale who pulled out of the Olympics through injury played for Spurs last night. Once in a lifetime opportunity thrown away #baffled."

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas said: "He came back to us during this week and you could say that we took a risk. We were on alert about the amount of effort he could put in.

"Gareth is young and physically a beast so he was able to put in the effort and we extended that because we want him to complete a certain amount of minutes before the start of the season.

"We just welcome his recovery - that is the most important thing for me. To have a player of this dimension available is fantastic."

Bale was one of the faces of Team GB in the build-up to the Olympics and declared his desire to play.

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