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Sports

FIFA, IOC Try to Force Clubs to Release Players For Olympics

Soccer clubs have received a stern warning from the ruling body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee that they must release players for the Beijing Games.

Brazil's forward Ronaldinho

He'll definitely be going...but who else will be starring at the Olympics?

FIFA and the IOC said that clubs who refuse to let players go to the August 8-24 Olympics will have these players suspended from club matches for the period.

The rule applies to all under-23 players -- unless they don't want to play at the Games. The Olympic tournament is an under-23 event with three older players allowed per team.

"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," IOC president Jacques Rogge told DPA news agency during an interview in Lausanne, Switzerland. "FIFA has reminded the clubs of this law. They sent a letter a couple of days ago to remind them of that."

FIFA spokesman Alain Leiblang confirmed the letter to DPA news agency on Friday, saying: "We have informed the clubs that they must release the under-23 players."

German clubs keeping players at home

Brazilian soccer player Diego of German first division, Bundesliga, club SV Werder Bremen

Diego is said to be very angry about his club's decision

While Brazil's Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi of Argentina are among the stars to play in Beijing, others like Brazil's Diego and Rafinha, or Belgium's Vincent Kompany are not to be released by their German clubs, Werder Bremen, Schalke and SV Hamburg, respectively.

And AC Milan vice-president Alberto Galliano said that his club would have not let newly-hired Ronaldinho go to Beijing had he been at Milan before the player's transfer from Barcelona this week.

"We respect the obligation that he took on before he came to Milan. If he had already been a Rossonero, we would not have let him go, but as he is joining us later we will let him go to the Olympics," said Galliano.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti even saw the bright side of it, saying: "It is a chance for him to find his fitness. When he comes back he will be ready. He will only need to learn his place in our system."

Bremen stand firm on Diego

Diego, by contrast, is not to be a fellow-midfielder for Brazil as many clubs disagree with the views of FIFA and the IOC.

Schalke's Rafinha

Schalke's Rafinha is one of the Bundesliga stars staying put

"There is no such rule according to the statutes. We have no written statement from FIFA or the IOC that we have to release someone," said Bremen sports director Klaus Allofs.

The clubs argue that the Olympic tournament is not on the official FIFA calendar (unlike the women's event) and that it is therefore up to them to decide whether their men can play for gold or not.

Rogge said he can understand the clubs but at the same time wants the football tournament to be as attractive as possible.

"Their clubs have other motives, the regular calendar, Champions League qualifying and then they don't want to send them. They are afraid they could be injured," Rogge said.

"I am very happy that the big players want to participate in the Games, Ronaldinho wants to go to the Games. So there are a lot of great players who want to go. The Games are something special for them."

Rogge said he would prefer no age restrictions to have all top stars compete but that he respects the under-23 agreement signed between IFA and the IOC in 1993.

"We are happy to have soccer for various reasons. It is the most popular sport in the world, it is a success in the Olympic Games, they are number three in audience among the 28 sports and they are number one in the sale of tickets," said Rogge.

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