Tuesday, March 03, 2009

UEFA, Finnish Soccer, and Some Fuzzy Math

This has really nothing to do with Sweden. Or about being a Swedish American in Sweden. And it’s about a sport I just don’t really care all that much about, but I just couldn’t resist when I ran across this a few days ago. It’s been stuck in my head for a while. Festering if you will.

From UEFA.com and the article titled Finland's Maanoja suffers double leg break we get this gem of a sentence.

“Finland goalkeeper Tomi Maanoja, 22, is almost certain to miss this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals in Sweden after breaking his leg in two places during a friendly for AIK Solna on Saturday.”

Now I’m no mathematician, in fact, I stopped liking math around the time they started using more Greek letters than numbers. I might even describe myself as actively hating it. But that being said, I am capable of simple addition and subtraction. And a quick look at the above sentence reveals bigger problems than just a broken leg for the poor Finn. It seems he might not be able to play in the Under-21 Championship because he isn’t actually under 21. He’s 22. That makes it difficult to qualify.

I went over this in my head a bit. Trying to come up with ways that he could have snuck in. Some sort of red-shirt system like that found in the US and collegiate athletics. But Under-21 suggests that a 21 year old wouldn’t be able to play. So there goes any sort of theory that maybe he was eligible at the start of the year and just happened to turn 22 during the course of the season.

So I did a quick search on Maanoja. He was born September 12th, 1986. Making him only six months shy of his 23rd birthday. Clearly not under-21.

My old man suggested that UEFA might be trying to use some Chinese Olympic math in order to manipulate the age. The alternative is that the just can’t count.

Can someone please explain to me how this guy is eligible?

Welcome to Sweden. Where, as far as I know, people can count to 21.

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  1. Its that 30 year-old in little league all over again!

  2. when little leaguers have moustaches something probably isn't right...

  3. "To be eligible for the campaign ending in 2009, players need to be born in or after 1986. Many can be actually 23 years old by the time the finals tournament takes place, however, when the qualification process began (late 2007) all players would have been 21 or under."


  4. good work Linus.

    although that seems to kind of defeat the purpose of having a championship for under-21.

    having to plan ahead with a team that would actually be under-21 would be much more challenging.

  5. I agree. Or they should rename it.

  6. Isn't it called U-21 as in Ungdom 21? Anyways I think there is some rule that says the teams are allowed to have some players on their teams older than 21.

  7. Weird rules! I agree with Hairy, he should have been kicked out of the team by the time he was 21. And all the others not-under-21-year-old as well.

  8. But why under-21? Surely that's old enough to play with the big boys? But what about the double leg break - is that twice as bad as a single break?

  9. @linus - seriously, they have so many different age groups it seems like they could fill it with athletes who actually fit.

    @fredrik - Im pretty sure it is under 21, but if they allow for a few who are over 21 it seems to kind of take away from using age as a cut off.

    @smek - it doesnt really make sense does it?

    @anonymous - its probaby for all of those who just arent quite good enough to always play with the big boys. their last chance.

  10. From my limited experiences with soccer, the U-17 and U-21'ers often do play with the big boys and are signed to huge clubs. Clubs so huge they often don't get enough playing time. Different clubs try to solve this problem various ways. Mexican club rules state that there has to be at least one 21er on the field at all times. Some clubs invest more in their U-21 and U-17 teams as a whole. It's really all about making the national team as strong as possible.

  11. It's quite simple, if the coach had to plan ahead to see what player was eligible to play the finals, the qualification round would be full of teenagers. And as always everything is about making as much money as possible, better games with better players (in most cases older players play on a higher level then younger) attracts more people which in return generates more money, and the circle is complete.

  12. @the good doctor – makes sense. So the young uns are kind of tweeners. Lots of playing time with the JV but just a little bit of playing time but plenty of practice with the varsity.

    @fotbolls coachen – damn that need to make money in sports. It just seems that with so many different age groups they would be able to still make a lot of money without needing to do stuff like this.