In a pre-Olympic press conference held today at the Beijing Olympic Main Press Centre (MPC), FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter answered questions from the assembled journalists. Accompanying him on the podium were Dr. Mong Joon Chung, FIFA Vice-President and Chairman of the FIFA Organising Committee for the Olympic Football Tournaments, Jerome Valcke, FIFA General Secretary and Jim Brown, Director of FIFA Competitions.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter
On the forthcoming Olympic Football Tournaments
The [Women's] Olympic Football Tournament will begin in two days. The matches will be staged not only in Beijing, but also in other four different venues across China. This Olympics marks the 100-year anniversary of football's inclusion in the Olympic Games, when football became the first team sport in this global event at London 1908.
For the first time, we will have a total of 28 teams, including 16 men's and 12 women's, involved in this competition. Since women's football was first played in Atlanta 1996, with eight teams involved, this is also our first time to have as many as 12 sides competing for the Olympic football gold. And we are all here to participate and enjoy the Olympic Games; it is truly ‘one world, one dream'.
On the release of U-23 players
In 1988, the FIFA Congress decided that all players up to the age of 23 were eligible to play in the Men's Olympic Football Tournament and the release of all U-23 players to play for their national teams in the Olympic Games would be compulsory. After that, no-one made any complaints. I was surprised that this time three clubs should deny the release of three of their players: Argentina's Messi of Barcelona and two Brazilian players from Werder Bremen, Diego and Schalke, Rafinha. By the way, compliments should go to the English Premiership clubs this time as they released all players needed for their nations' Olympic duties.
After the FIFA Single judge ruled the release of players under the age of 23 for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 is mandatory for all clubs, some clubs appealed against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The result will come in the next 48 hours and whatever it will be, either against FIFA or against the clubs, we would like the young players to be able to stay and play.
Players deserve rights to play for their nations. Now the three players have arrived in their respective venues, with Messi in Shanghai and the Brazilian duo in Shenyang, all in full preparation for the games. We can't imagine they will be ruled out for the games just one day before the tournament kicks off. Please help them and let the players play. Problems can only be solved through dialogue. When the balance is reached, we all sit down for dialogues.
On the fact that England are not represented at this Olympic Games
There are four football associations in Great Britain - England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland - but they are only allowed to have one Olympic committee. I can't guarantee that the four British associations will never lose their privileges but I can tell you that when the FIFA Statutes were revised in 2003 there were no longer voices to challenge these privileges. I think they will find a solution for the next Olympic Games in London in 2012 .
Jim Brown, Director of FIFA Competitions
On the hosts' preparation work
It is fair to say we are very pleased with the preparatory work by the hosts and we are impressed by their enthusiasm and passion. The stadiums and training sites are all in fine conditions and all teams have arrived in their venues.