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Court Ruling Threatens Future of Olympic Soccer, Say Officials

Soccer is in danger of losing its prominent position at the Olympics after a ruling allowing clubs to deny their stars a place at the Games, IOC supremo Jacques Rogge and FIFA boss Sepp Blatter said Thursday, August 7.

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

Bremen's Diego, left, will remain on Olympic duty with Brazil despite the CAS ruling

Blatter, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, responded angrily to the previous day's ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that upheld appeals from Barcelona and German clubs Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen.

"It's really sad to see such a decision was handed down, putting in danger the entire soccer tournament," said Blatter. "We could do beach soccer or a five-a-side tournament. That would be very sad and the world would not understand it."

Like Blatter, Rogge appealed to the clubs in questions to allow the players to stay in Beijing for the tournament which started on Thursday.

"I plea along with Blatter to leave the players in China and let them live their dream," Rogge told a news conference. "Soccer is very important. We are keen to have the best possible players at the tournament," the IOC boss said.

Complainant clubs to allow stars to stay

Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, fights for the ball with Mexico's Israel Castro

Argentina's Messi, left, has not been called back by Barca

Schalke and Bremen have signaled that their Brazilians Rafinha and Diego, respectively, will be allowed to stay in Beijing. Barcelona appear to be acting similarly with their Argentina star Lionel Messi.

However, both Bundesliga clubs demanded the Brazilian soccer federation quickly "create the conditions" for the players' involvement -- for example, by providing evidence of insurance cover in case they are injured. "We are pleased that CAS has confirmed our legal interpretation," Schalke manager Andreas Mueller said. "It is laid down quite clearly in the FIFA Statutes.

"Our position would have been different if the legal position had been clarified earlier," Mueller added. "I believe the matter was deliberately delayed until just before the Olympics to put the clubs in an awkward position."

However, the CAS decision was a huge embarrassment for FIFA and confirmed the view of the clubs that they don't have to release players to the under-23 Olympic event, with each team allowed only three older players.

The CAS judges dismissed FIFA's claim that there was an obligation to release players based on an agreement between FIFA and the clubs. The CAS also said that the Olympic tournament is not on FIFA's match calendar.

"We respect CAS but it doesn't make things easier," said Rogge.

A question of profit and responsibility

Barcelona's Yaya Toure, right, scores the first goal against Schalke's Marcelo Bordon and keeper Manuel Neuer, left, during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and FC Schalke 04 at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, April 9, 2008.

Schalke and Barcelona met in last season's Champions League

Barcelona and Schalke play Champions League qualifiers during the Olympics and they could lose millions of euros if they don't make the group stage. Player insurance is also an important issue if players get injured at the Olympics.

Rogge said that FIFA and the IOC must talk swiftly after the Beijing Games to avoid a similar situation in 2012 in London. Rogge also said that it was up to FIFA to deliver the solution.

"If FIFA puts the Olympics on the calendar the issue is resolved," Rogge said.

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