If Leo Messi’s retirement from the national team wasn’t enough sad news in the world of Argentine football, it just got a bit grimmer.
As of now, Argentina has not officially filled its football roster for the Río de Janeiro Olympics which start in just 33 days. Practice for the team was supposed to start on Monday, July 4, but has been postponed a week so that coach Gerardo Martino can put pressure on local football clubs to release their players and allow them to try out.
This problem isn’t a question of Argentina not having enough potential players at its disposal to officially make the quota of 11 positions on the field. Of course enough players exist. Five million players probably exist. In fact, a preliminary list of 36 players has already been submitted, according to local sources. But only nine have officially been confirmed on the roster so far (which is technically enough people to play a game).
Martino is waiting to fill the remaining spots with better talent from football clubs, but these are still refusing to give up their best players. They are not contractually obliged to lend their players to the Olympic teams because the games are not played under FIFA, so they usually are wary to do so as it interrupts preseason.
Argentina’s national football team made its first Olympic appearance at the 1928 Summer Olympics held in the Netherlands. Though the team had quite a stroke of “beginner’s luck” and advanced to the final, Uruguay took the gold after a 2-1 defeat.
After more than 60 years since that finals appearance (and many random years without participation), the Argentine team finally made it back to the championship game at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, US where it ultimately lost to Nigeria. It wouldn’t be until 2004 in Athens, Greece that the team would receive its first gold medal against Paraguay. At the next Olympics in Beijing, the team won its second consecutive gold medal (Messi led the team to victory), but then failed to qualify for the following games in London.
Who knew we’d be saying things like, “The team needs to pull itself together!” and mean it in the literal sense a mere few weeks from the Games. According to Martino, that will hopefully be done in the next couple of days.