20 years ago in what is still considered today as the most competitive Olympic football competition to date, I was blessed to help Nigeria win and put Africa on the world soccer map as we won our first international senior title, ever: The prestigious Olympic gold medal at Atlanta, 1996.
It was tagged the most competitive Olympics soccer competition to date because, the quality of the players and the fact that each of the four teams presented by their nations (Brazil, Argentina, Portugal and Nigeria) at the semi-finals went on, not only to progress to the world’s best clubs, but lead their country’s charge once again to the World Cup two years later in France 1998, as worldwide confirmed stars.
The players included the legendary Ronaldo da lima, Rivaldo, Aldair, Kanu Nwankwo, Crespo,Simeone (now coach of Athletico Madrid), Dani, Nuno Gomez, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, Jay Jay Okocha, Celestine Babayaro, Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike to mention a few.
This, incidentally, was the 100-year celebration of the modern day Olympics.
This major event was also a landmark as certain novelties were tried out at the matches, which many were ignorant of and surprised when they eventually happened.
One particular one was the golden goal, from which Nigeria profited to edge out Brazil in extra time of the semi-final. A goal by Kanu Nwankwo, which many were surprised to see, marked the sudden end to this thrilling encounter.
Today, I will try to make available to you the changes that are to accompany this Olympic soccer gold medal chase so that when they happen you can brag about your knowledge and explain it to friends who miss this write up.
But before delving into that, let’s ask: why and what is the Olympics?
Initially they were a series of athletic competitions held for representatives of various city-states of Ancient Greece held in honour of Zeus. They began in 776 BC in Olympia in Greece making it the oldest sporting and prestigious event of all time. Over the years the Games have evolved to include almost every major sport in the world.
One thing that has always been a remarkable feature of the Olympics has been the fact that victorious athletes are honoured, idolised, feted, praised and never forgotten. Their deeds are heralded and chronicled so that future generations can appreciate their accomplishments.
The Olympics have a special, unique symbol to announce themselves. They are five intertwined rings, better known as the Olympic rings. These rings represent the unity of the five inhabited continents (Europe, Africa, America, Australia and Asia). The coloured version of the rings: blue, yellow, black, green, and red, over a white field forms the Olympic flag. These colours were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag.
Here is a summary of some of the law changes that you should expect from the 2016 Rio Olympics and take note that these new laws relate mainly to players and match situations.
Denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (DOGSO)
- If a player commits a DOGSO offence inside the penalty area it will now be a yellow card (caution) if the foul was an attempt to play the ball or challenge an opponent for the ball.
However, the following offences will still cause players to be issued with a red card (send-off): Handball or holding, putting or pushing or not attempting to play the ball or not having the chance to play the ball or serious foul challenges, violent conduct.
Penalty kick if in their own penalty area
- If something or someone (other than a player) touches a ball which is going into the goal and it still goes in the goal, the goal can be awarded if the defenders were not affected and the ball does not go into the opponents’ goal.
At the kick-off the ball can now be kicked in any direction, including backwards so no team-mates are allowed to stand in the opponents’ half
- The halfway line is ‘neutral’ for offside – the player must be in the opponents’ half. Players’ arms and hands (including the goalkeepers) are not considered when judging offside
Penalties at the end of a match
The referee will toss a coin to decide which goal to use, unless there are ground, safety or other considerations. There is no need to tell the referee which players will take kicks or the order. A player temporarily off the field at the final whistle (e.g. injured, changing equipment) can take part. If one team loses a player during the kicks (injured, sent off) the other team removes one player (the same as at the end of the match).
If a player leaves the field of play during the kicks, the kicks are not delayed and if the player is not back in time to take a kick then their kick is forfeited/missed.
A kick is completed/over when the ball stops moving (including being held by the goalkeeper), goes out of play or there is an infringement; the kicker cannot play the ball a second time.
Send off offences before the match
A player may be sent off any time after the referee enters the field of play for the pre-match inspection. If this happens: before team lists have been submitted
- the player can not appear on the list after the team lists have been submitted but before kick-off
- a player can be replaced by a substitute who cannot be replaced. A substitute cannot be replaced
In both cases the team starts the match with 11 players and can still make the maximum number of substitutions permitted.
Attempted violence is a red card (send off) even if no contact is made. A player who deliberately strikes an opponent on the head or face will receive a red card (send off) unless the force used was minimal/negligible. If a player commits a red card (send off) or second yellow card (caution) offence and the referee plays advantage, that player cannot then be involved in play; the red card will be shown when play next stops.
If the player becomes involved the referee will stop play, show the red card (send off) and award an indirect free kick.
These changes could not only be limited to just these Olympics but be continued in all world football matches based on their success or lack of it.
Now who’s going to win the 2016 Olympic gold? I am rooting for Nigeria among these other favourites: Germany, Brazil and Argentina.