Stars feel the Olympic spirit
© Foto-net

Following a worrying start concerning the release of players, the Olympic Football Tournaments Beijing 2008 flowered into a celebration of flowing football, friendship and global solidarity.

A cross-section of Beijing 2008's finest footballers told just what makes the Olympic spirit so special and gold so worth chasing.

Javier Mascherano, Argentina and Liverpool midfielder
The way you live here at the Olympics makes the competition unique, especially for footballers. When you move to the Village it's just amazing. You see things that you usually don't see: I was there in Athens and I met some stars that I never thought I was going to meet. I enjoyed it so much. I met [Roger] Federer and Yao Ming, it's so great. I feel just like a fan.

Brian McBride, USA and Chicago Fire striker
As Americans, growing up we really get a sense of the importance of playing in the Olympics. You have this cycle every four years, and excitement and anticipation for the games grows. And this is just a chance for me to be a part of it. It's amazing.

Diego, Brazil and Werder Bremen midfielder
The Olympics has always been one of my greatest career dreams, and now I have achieved it. It's a great competition, which brings together several nations in different sports. And Brazil has not yet won the gold medal in men's football, so how good would it be for us to be the first?

Sergio Aguero, Argentina and Atletico Madrid forward
When we moved from Shanghai to Beijing and into the Olympic Village, we began to taste the tremendous Olympic atmosphere. Here, every day you meet big names in all sports and people from all walks of life the world over. This makes the Olympics different from a normal football competition.

Victor Anichebe, Nigeria and Everton striker

It's like a little United Nations. It's totally cool to see all these guys you know from the Premier League like Brian [McBride] and all the Dutch guys like [Roy] Makaay and [Ryan] Babel. We're all competing, but it's all very friendly too as we're sharing a home.

Juan Roman Riquelme, Argentina and Boca Juniors
It's like nothing I've done before. You cannot imagine what it's like when you enter the Olympic Village. We had the good fortune to stay there and meet athletes from all over the world. For me it was incredible and I fully enjoyed it. Never before had I experienced anything quite like it.

Royston Drenthe, Netherlands and Real Madrid winger
Man, it's such a special feeling to be here in China going for a gold medal with all the guys - and girls - from the other teams staying with you and mingling. It's a big football tournament but it's something else too.

Ronaldinho, Brazil and AC Milan striker
We're all staying here and we bump into each other a lot. Naturally, we're hoping they do really well and that they can win a gold medal too [speaking of staying together with the Brazil women's team].

Kara Lang, Canada striker
It's great that everyone in the team is playing in their first Olympics together. We're all buzzing. The experience is just amazing for us, to interact with all the other players.

Serqio Batista, Argentina coach
I am so happy to take part in these Olympic Games and I am deeply impressed by the organisation of the competition. We have been very well received and we thank the organizers and hosts for their work and hospitality.

Salomon Kalou, Côte d'Ivoire and Chelsea striker

It's a fantastic experience for me, and the whole team. This is the first time we Ivorians have reached the Olympic Games, and that has had a huge impact back home. Olympic Football is huge in Africa, since Nigeria and Cameroon won in 1996 and 2000. To be at the Olympic Village for the medal rounds would be a dream come true: to meet other athletes, to have fun together... that's what the Olympics all about, right? Sharing experiences, right!?

Renate Lingor, Germany midfielder and four-time Olympian
The Olympic spirit begins when you get your gear, and you begin to think about fighting for medals for your country. It is great in the Olympic Village, to mingle with other sportspeople and athletes from other countries.

Stephane Mbia, Cameroon and Rennes midfielder
Every footballer I know wants to play at the Olympic Games, it's a huge honour. It's a special part of your career. It's important for players and it's important to me.

Benny Feilhaber, USA and Derby County midfielder
The feeling of being an Olympian is almost too cool to describe. You get to be loose and talk and hang out with the guys from the other teams. When we (USA men's football team) got the chance to walk the track at the opening ceremony it was like a dream come true.

Kim Dong-Jin, Korea Republic and Zenit defender
The Olympics is the world's biggest sporting event, while the World Cup is the world's biggest event for a single sport. Both are huge. As a player, there is certainly the same desire for me to do well. I want a medal in this tournament just as much as I wanted to finish in the top three in Germany two years ago.

Brad Guzan, USA and Aston Villa goalkeeper
Sportsmanship and spirit are required in all international football competitions, but the Olympics are always something special.