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Messi, Diego, Rafinha to Play Olympics Despite Court Ruling

Bremen, Schalke, and Barcelona say they will allow their stars to take part in the Beijing Summer Games despite a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that the players have no right to an Olympic leave of absence.

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

Argentina's Messi was in the middle of a legal mess

The ruling, which was issued Wednesday, Aug. 6, overturned a decision at the end of July by FIFA, soccer's world governing authority, requiring teams to release under-23 players to join their national sides in Beijing. The three most prominent players affected were Lionel Messi of Barcelona, Werder Bremen playmaker Diego and Schalke defender Rafinha.

The CAS ruling was based on the fact that the Olympics are not part of soccer's official international calendar.

But the court also issued a statement calling upon "the good will and good sense of FIFA and the clubs to find a reasonable solution with regard to players who wish to represent their country at the Olympic Games."

All three clubs say they won't force the players to come back to Europe.

"At this late stage it makes no sense to order Diego to come back to Bremen," Bremen CEO Klaus Allofs said in a statement.

Bad feelings all around

Diego departing in a German airport

Things have been tense at Bremen since Diego's unexpected departure

But Allofs added that the decision was contingent upon the Brazilian Football Association taking out appropriate insurance in case the players were injured.

The Olympic soccer competition coincides with the start of the German Bundesliga season and the qualifying round for the Champions League, in which both Schalke and Barcelona face crucial matches.

Messi joined the Argentinean side in Beijing after the July FIFA ruling. Diego and Rafinha, more controversially, simply went AWOL from their respective clubs' pre-season preparations to hook up with the Brazilian national team.

That didn't make their employers very happy.

"We don't feel like the big winners," Schalke commercial manager Andreas Mueller said in a statement.

"Due to delays, we were put in a situation of having to decide whether to recall our player five minutes before the start of the Olympic soccer tournament," Mueller said.

Association to blame

Porto's Ricardo Quaresma, right, and Schalke's Rafinha fight for the ball

Schalke will have to do without Rafinha, left, in the Champions League qualifiers

And club officials left no doubt as to which body they held most culpable for the confusion surrounding the clubs' rights and responsibilities.

"FIFA has failed in its attempt to nullify existing legal paragraphs and make new rules," Allofs said. "It was our duty to defend ourselves against these arbitrary decisions."

League representatives concurred.

"FIFA irresponsibly failed to recognize the legal situation in time," said Holger Hieronymus, head of the German Football League, DFL.

The clubs have settled the Olympic conflict of interest by sacrificing theirs. But they now start their domestic and international campaigns at a disadvantage.

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