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Germany

Clubs Seek Legal Action as Diego, Rafinha Abscond to Olympics

Schalke 04 defender Rafinha left his club's training camp in Austria on Monday in order to link up with the Brazil Olympic squad despite being refused permission to travel by the Bundesliga club.

Bremen's Diego

I'm off: Bremen's Diego packs his bags and heads to the Olympics with Brazil

Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen said on Tuesday they are willing to go before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in an attempt to prevent Brazilian players on their squads from playing at next month's Beijing Olympics.

The German Bundesliga clubs said that Schalke’s Rafinha and Diego of Bremen are not to play at the August 8-24 Games and that the ruling body FIFA has no rule to force them to release the players.

The Schalke defender Rafinha left his club's training camp in Austria on Monday before flying to Paris on Tuesday in order to link up with the Brazil Olympic squad despite being refused permission to travel.

Schalke's Rafinha

Rafinha has already left Schalke to join up with Brazil

Rafinha has the support of International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who told DPA news agency last week that "the law says that if a club doesn't release a player, then the player will be suspended (from playing) for the whole period of the games."

Rafinha's club, however, is less understanding.

"We have written to the Brazilian Football Federation CBF and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) demanding that Rafinha be prevented from playing at the Olympics," said Schalke general manager Andreas Mueller. "If the CBF doesn't comply with our wishes, then we will take the case to CAS."

Bremen star jumps ship

The Bremen playmaker Diego also departed to Paris on Tuesday after a meeting with club officials.

"I am going to Beijing," said Diego. "This is my big dream, but it will be decided elsewhere."

Rafinha, Diego and Bayern Munich's Breno have all been selected for Brazil's Beijing squad but Breno is the only one to have received permission from his club to travel to China.

Brazil's soccer players Diego, left, and Robinho joke during a training session

Diego may be smiling in Beijing -- but afterwards?

Schalke and Bremen acknowledged that Rafinha and Diego are under big pressure from Brazil to represent their country even though the German league starts during the games and Schalke will also play in the Champions League qualifiers at the time.

The German Football Federation (DFB) confirmed on Tuesday that it had forwarded a protest by Schalke to soccer's ruling body FIFA.

"The DFB supports the protest and shares the legal opinion of the professional club that there is no requirement to release the player as the Olympic football tournament is not part of FIFA's international match calendar and there has been no relevant decision by the FIFA Executive Committee that requires players of a particular age category to be released for the Olympic Games in Beijing," said the DFB in a statement.

DFB vice-president Dr Rainer Koch said it was "unacceptable" that a top club like Schalke 04 was "surprised by such a development" with just three weeks to go until the start of the Bundesliga season.

"The cooperation of soccer clubs in regard to fixtures and national team requirements can only function if legal certainty is achieved in good time and applicable rules are clearly communicated," he said.

IOC's Rogge mentions suspending players

International Olympic Comittee, IOC, president Jacques Rogge

Rogge added confusion to the matter with his comments

Confusion over the issue of releasing players has reigned since IOC president Jacques Rogge told DPA news agency last week that "the law says that if a club doesn't release a player then the player will be suspended for the whole period of the games."

A FIFA spokesman confirmed Rogge's statement on Friday but FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke made clear ib Sunday in a telephone call to his counterpart in the DFB, Wolfgang Niersbach, that there was no obligation on clubs to release their players for the Olympics.

"There is no requirement to release players, regardless of whether they are older or younger than 23," said Niersbach in an interview with the Sport-Bild newspaper.

The Olympic tournament is an under-23 event with three older players allowed per team.

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