Who does the player cap really benefit?

With an Olympic campaign under threat is the mandate that each A-League club can only give up three U23 players a fair move?

Recently FFA took the unusual step of capping the number of players that could be called up from one club for Australian Under 23s duty; no more than three from each A-League side will be joining Aurelio Vidmar on the plane to face Uzbekistan (February 5) and UAE (February 22).

The reasoning behind the decision is, apparently, to protect A-League clubs from losing some valuable assets at an important stage of the domestic season.

“It-s very important,” said Melbourne Heart chief executive Scott Munn, “as we are about to have the heaviest workload of the year, and with up to five players missing, on top of injuries, we would have had to bring in a number of youth team players just to fill the squad.”

Those selected for U23s will miss just three A-League games, with the finals more than six weeks away.

Without the cap, almost all clubs would have lost some talent and Melbourne Heart potentially the hardest hit with six players likely to be taken from their squad. But A-League coaches can rest assured; they won-t have to place too much trust in their National Youth League teams just yet.

The club v country debate rages throughout football, but where does this leave the U23s?

In the midst of a difficult campaign and stripped of some of their best players. We wouldn-t accept it for our senior team. Which other national team has such restraints put on the squad?

And spare a thought for U23s boss Aurelio Vidmar. As a young coach, Vidmar obviously wants his team to have everything they need to succeed - being told you can-t pick the players you want doesn-t exactly fulfil that requirement.

He already has to do without the best European-based players - now he-s being told that he can-t take the best from Australia as well? The likes of Luke De Vere, Tommy Oar and Matthew Leckie are hard to replace at the best of times, never mind when the local talent is similarly restricted.

Say, for instance, Australia lose to Uzbekistan - is that then Vidmar-s fault? If the squad don-t make the Olympics, you can be sure plenty of people will be asking why, and Vidmar will be squarely in the firing line.

If one of those SBS pundits gets their back up about poor performances and calls for Vidmar to be sacked, is this fair? Or if the blogosphere and Twitterati decide the U23s game plan just hasn-t been up to scratch and that Vidmar is the reason.

Anyone who-s found themselves under-resourced and under the pump at work will know just how unfair it feels to be held accountable when your hands are tied.

And what of the young players who have dreamt of pulling on the green and gold all their lives? Talk to any player that gets to national level and they-ll tell you the immense sense of pride that comes from representing your country.

Australian football has long found the Olympics to be an excellent pathway for developing young talent, with almost all of our best Socceroos featuring in the tournament - where else could a young Aussie get a game against the likes of Lionel Messi?

Yet now we-re on the verge of missing our first Olympics since 1988, so A-League clubs can get through a couple of weeks without dipping into their own youth stocks.

Has Australia given up on the London Olympics already? In the face of short-term thinking, shouldn-t we be asking questions about our long-term strategies?