Friday, August 31, 2012

Should 45 really be the age cap?

Maybe because I am quickly approaching this age served as my inspiration for writing this article.

Maybe it was watching Jens Voigt win stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Tour, or pull on the KOM jersey. He will be 41 Soon.

Maybe it was watching Chris Horner finish 13th in the TdF, 93rd in the Olympics two weeks later, and two weeks after that 13th in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, where he helped RSNT win a the team classification as well. He will be 41 soon too.

I can go on, and on, and on about elite level athletes that are not 20 somethings, or even 30 somethings but take a look here at 40 something Olympic athletes. There were even more than a few medals won by folks in that age range too.

Now you may say that some of these events, almost anyone could compete as there is not a ton of "athleticism" needed. Shooting is a good example where you need to be very skilled, but not particularly aerobically fit. Ah, but what about tennis, equestrian, or yes, soccer.

So, if one can be 40+, or even 50+ and Olympic fit, why does FIFA limit the age of referees to 45?

I don't think it can reasonably be seen as a fitness thing anymore. Take a look at Joel Friel's blog on aging athletes. In particular, The Aging Athlete - My First 68 Years. The data just is not there that after 45, you drop off a cliff in fitness.

Fit is fit, and if you can attain, and maintain it, there should be no reason why a referee should not be able to work matches. US Soccer has actually almost got themselves into some trouble over this from a veteran MLS referee, Marcel Yonan. While that case was tossed (opinion here), as age discrimination is not a factor in dealing with independent contractors, such as referees, it likely sent the correct message to the Federation ... even old referees should be able to work in MLS.

Take a look here for a brief debate on the topic from UEFA:

Then again, and the point is made in the video, 45 may be perfect to "go out on top" as many of us don't know when to quit. Just look at me and my cycling ...

I still think 45 is too young though, and the wily veteran referee has a special place in the international game today. They should not be excluded just because of an incorrect perception that us old folk are not fit anymore.

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