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CAS rules in favor of Barcelona over Messi's Olympic fate
21:07, August 06, 2008

Barcelona does not need to release Lionel Messi for the 2008 Beijing Olympic soccer tournament, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced on Wednesday.

Werder Bremen and Schalke also have won their appeal to prevent Diego and Rafinha from going to Beijing.

Messi had been called up to the Argentina squad, and Diego and Rafinha were expected to play for Brazil.

The dispute arose days ago when Barcelona had been pressing Messi to stay for their vital Champions League qualifying games, whereas Argentina needed the key player to help defend their Olympic title.

FIFA ordered last week that clubs must release their under 23 players for the Olympic tournament, a ruling which had brought 21-year-old Messi to meet his Argentinean squad in Shanghai. Messi showed up in all the training sessions in which he paired Juan Riquelme in Argentina midfield.

Of CAS' ruling, FIFA made a quick response by saying that they are surprised and disappointed by this decision, but they respect it.

"Nevertheless, I appeal to the clubs: 'Let your players take part in the Olympic Games. It would be an act of solidarity in perfect harmony with the Olympic spirit,'" FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter said in a statement.

According to FIFA, Blatter sent messages to the three teams appealing for them to let the players compete.

"The Olympic football tournaments are a unique opportunity for a player as they are high-level competitions that give everyone involved, most notably young players, the chance to gain international experience that will stand them in good stead for the future," Blatter said. "I regret that the CAS has not taken the Olympic spirit into consideration."

The CAS verdict came just one day before the men's soccer tournament starts. Argentina will play Cote d'Ivoire in Shanghai Thursday. Also in the group are Serbia and Australia.

Source: Xinhua

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