FIFA is disappointed by the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the mandatory release of players under the age of 23 for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, which was announced today, 6 August 2008.
"FIFA is surprised and disappointed by this decision, but we respect it. 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'," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who sent a message to FC Barcelona, Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen, appealing to their goodwill not to call back the players Leo Messi, Rafinha and Diego.
"FIFA's opinion has not changed. The Olympic Football Tournaments are a unique opportunity for a player as they 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 and his national team who can benefit from such an experience, but also his club," he added.
"I regret that the CAS has not taken the Olympic spirit into consideration," concluded the FIFA President.
FIFA wishes to thank all those clubs who have released their players for the competition and shown great solidarity and Olympic spirit in doing so.
The CAS had received appeals from German clubs SV Werder Bremen and FC Schalke 04 and from Spanish club FC Barcelona against the previous decision taken by the single judge of the Players' Status Committee (cf. see media release of 30 July), stating that the release of players under the age of 23 for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 was mandatory for all clubs.
FIFA will meet the International Olympic Committee after the Olympic Football Tournaments Beijing 2008 in order to discuss and clarify the issue of the release of players for the Olympic Football Tournaments in the future.