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Messi set to miss Olympics after sports court ruling

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 6 Aug 2008

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Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is set to miss the Olympic Games football tournament after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled Wednesday that clubs were not obliged to release players for the event.

The Lausanne-based CAS's ruling has major implications for reigning Olympic champions Argentina and fellow South American giants Brazil ahead of the start of Thursday's tournament, primarily an Under-23 event although teams can field over-age players.

Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Schalke had all been fighting to keep their young stars — Argentina's Messi and Brazil's Diego and Rafinha — out of the Games, which clash with their own season after appealing an earlier ruling by FIFA, football's world governing body, which said players must be allowed to compete in Beijing.

“FIFA is surprised and disappointed by this decision, but we respect it,” said FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

“Nevertheless, I appeal to the clubs: Let your players take part in the Olympic Games. It would be an act of solidarity in perfect harmony with the Olympic spirit. It would be wonderful for the players, for the fans and for the game itself.”

He added: “FIFA's opinion has not changed. The Olympic football tournaments are high level competitions that give everyone involved – most notably young players – the chance to gain international experience that will stand them in good stead for the future.

“It stands to reason, therefore, that it is not only the player who will benefit from such an experience, but also his club.

“I regret that the CAS has not taken the Olympic spirit into consideration.”

Both Barcelona and Schalke have Champions League qualifiers during the Olympics, where the football final takes place on August 22, while Bremen want Diego for the start of the Bundesliga on August 15.

Normally, clubs must release players for internationals.

But CAS, explaining their decision, said: “The Olympic tournament doesn't feature in the official FIFA calendar and there is no executive decision by FIFA which establishes a right of release for Under-23 players for this tournament,

“Consequently, Schalke 04, Werder Bremen and Barcelona are not obliged to release the players Rafinha, Diego and Messi.”

It added: “CAS appeals to the good sense of the clubs and FIFA to find a reasonable solution which will allow a player who wishes to represent his country to compete in the Olympic Games.”

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