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FIFA to rule on Olympic guidelines

Published on 09/07/2008

9 July 2008

ZURICH – FIFA will issue guidelines by Thursday to calm growing tension between clubs and countries over the release of players for the Olympic football tournament.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, an International Olympic Committee member, is preparing to rule on whether players must report for national duty if selected for next month’s Beijing Games, which run in direct conflict with the start of the European season.

FIFA declined to comment Wednesday but said an official statement from the president’s office is expected in the next 24 hours.

Blatter has been an IOC member since 1999 and is a strong supporter of the Olympic tournament.

"For any player, the Olympic football tournament represents a highlight of his career and I hope that a solution can be found," Blatter said in February.

Current FIFA advice obliges clubs to release players 23 and under, but allows them to stop older players taking part. Each of the 16 competing teams can have three over-age players on its roster.

The informal rule is being tested by two German clubs after the announcement of the Brazil squad on Tuesday.

Werder Bremen has refused to release Diego, a 23-year-old midfielder, and Schalke wants to keep its 22-year-old defender Rafinha.

Both clubs say the players would miss pre-season training and two Bundesliga games, while Schalke has a Champions League qualifying round match scheduled for 12 or
13 Aug.

Brazil star Ronaldinho has also been chosen but the 28-year-old midfielder’s Spanish club FC Barcelona is refusing to let him go to China, where Brazil is due to play the host nation on 13 Aug.

[AP / Expatica]