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Sports

Olympics Creates Problems for Bundesliga Teams, Players

Some Bundesliga players have been invited to play for their national teams at the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing. But taking up those invitations would mean missing the start of the season -- and angering their bosses.

Bremen's Brazilian Diego celebrates

Diego will be doing his celebrating in Germany in August

It's a problem that crops up every four years.

Olympic invitations are especially welcome to star footballers, such as Bremen's Brazilian playmaker Diego, who've had trouble establishing themselves as regulars in their national sides.

"I am pleased and delighted to be called for a major competition and traditional [sic] as the Olympic Games, even more than the fact that I will play for Brazil which is in search of an unprecedented achievement," announced the gifted midfielder in rather garbled translation on his website, after learning of his nomination by Brazil coach Carlos Dunga.

But the Olympic soccer competition, which runs from August 7-23, coincides with the first weeks of the 2008-9 Bundesliga season. And Bremen's sport director Klaus Allofs is not amused.

"What needs to be said, we'll say to Diego face-to-face," said Allofs in a terse statement to the daily Bild newspaper.

Bremen isn't the only team with a star player caught between club and country. Rafinha, who plays for Bremen's opponents in the second week of the season, Schalke, has also been nominated for Brazil.

Driver's Seat

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

Rafinha, l, says he understands Schalke's position

Schalke has said they will not release Rafinha to play in the Summer Games, and the defender has accepted that decision -- with good reason.

Because the Olympics -- never known as a major football competition-- are not part of the official calendar of the sport's governing body, FIFA, clubs are under no obligation to give their players time off to compete in them. Barcelona, for instance, has already said it will not allow star playmaker Ronaldinho to go to Beijing.

But the situation is different for under-21 players. FIFA's rules there have sometimes been interpreted as meaning that clubs must allow them to compete for their national sides.

That's put Hertha Berlin at odds with promising young midfielder, Gojko Kacar, who's received a call-up form Serbia.

Kacar says he would like to play in Beijing, while Hertha desperately want to have him in the German capital to start the season. The two parties have yet to reach agreement.

Display Window

Paulo's Breno, right, fights for the ball

The Olympics can be a valuable learning experience for youngsters like Breno

Clubs don't have any objections, on the other hand, to non-regulars living out their Olympic dreams.

Hertha, for instance, have given Solomon Okoronko the green light to play for Nigeria, perhaps hoping that the reserve striker will increase his market value with a good performance in Beijing.

Bayern Munich have also signaled no objection to letting 18-year-old defensive talent Breno, more of a project for the future than candidate for this season's starting eleven, join the Selecao light in China.

So while Diego and Rafihna will almost certainly be staying put and plying their trade in the daily grind of the Bundesliga, some of their younger countrymen will have the chance to win gold medals this summer.

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