Clubs must release players for Games
ZURICH: FIFA ruled on Wednesday that clubs are obliged to release players aged 23 or under for the Beijing Olympics, clearing the way for Lionel Messi to play for Argentina despite opposition from FC Barcelona.
Slim Aloulou, a Tunisian judge on FIFA’s player status committee, said the release of under-23 players was “mandatory for all clubs.”
“Taking part in the Olympic Games is a unique opportunity for all athletes of any sporting discipline,” FIFA said in a statement. “It would not be justifiable to prevent any player younger than 23 from participating in such an event if his representative team had qualified.”
Apart from the 21-year-old Messi, the decision means that Schalke and Werder Bremen must release Rafinha and Diego, respectively, for Brazil.
The three clubs had challenged the FIFA rules, saying the Olympics were not included on football’s international match calendar.
Only for A-teams
But FIFA said the calendar only reflects the schedule for A-teams — those which include players older than 23. The dates for the Beijing tournament are set by the International Olympic Committee, and not by FIFA, it added.
The release of young players has traditionally been accepted by clubs since the rule first came into force 20 years ago. A FIFA emergency committee separately confirmed the rule on Tuesday.
Barca has announced it will contest FIFA’s ruling in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Messi, speaking before the FIFA ruling, had said, “If FIFA says I should be there then I’ll go without waiting for a CAS ruling.”
Messi added: “If CAS says that I have to return then I’ll come back but for the moment I want to be with my country and my teammates.”
The player has until Friday to link up with coach Sergio Batista’s Argentina’s Olympic squad in training in Japan.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday journalists should get “necessary” access to the Internet to do their jobs, stepping back from a pledge of full, unfettered Internet access.
“We have always encouraged hosts to ensure access necessary for the media to do their job of reporting on the Olympic Games,” said Giselle Davies, the IOC’s communications director. “And we are working to ensure that.”
She was speaking nine days before the Games open and after the Chinese hosts disclosed that the 20,000 journalists covering the August 8-24 Games in Beijing would face Internet restrictions. This went back on a pledge by both China’s communist rulers and the IOC that foreign reporters covering the Games would have uncensored access to the Internet.
Blocked websites in the main Olympic press centre on Wednesday included those of Amnesty International, the Tibet government-in-exile, dissident groups, and ones giving information about the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in which the Chinese military crushed democracy protests. — Agencies
Hindu On Net