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Olympic Football Tournaments 2008

FIFA disappointed by CAS decision
FIFA is disappointed by the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the mandatory release of players under the age of 23 for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, which was announced on 6 August 2008. “FIFA is surprised and disappointed by this decision, but we 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. It would be wonderful for the players, for the fans and for the game itself,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who sent a message to FC Barcelona, Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen, appealing to their goodwill not to recall Lionel Messi, Rafinha and Diego. “FIFA’s opinion has not changed. 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. It stands to reason, therefore, that it is not only the player and his national team who can benefit from such an experience, but also his club. I regret that CAS has not taken the Olympic spirit into consideration,” concluded the FIFA President.
FIFA wishes to thank all those clubs who have released their players for the competition and shown great solidarity and Olympic spirit in doing so.
FIFA will meet the International Olympic Committee after the Olympic Football Tournaments Beijing 2008 in order to discuss and clarify the issue of the release of players for future Olympic Football Tournaments.
Unique opportunity
On 30 July 2008, the single judge of the Players’ Status Committee, Slim Aloulou (Tunisia), had decided that the release of players under the age of 23 for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 was mandatory for all clubs. A day earlier, on 29 July 2008, the FIFA Emergency Committee had also passed a decision in the same sense.
The decision of the single judge was taken after FIFA had received requests from the German football association on behalf of its affiliate club FC Schalke 04, as well as from SV Werder Bremen, FC Schalke 04 and Spanish club FC Barcelona directly, in connection with the release of their players under the age of 23 for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. The single judge, while referring to the situation of the players belonging to the clubs in question, deemed that he should address the question of the release of all players under the age of 23 for that competition.
The single judge determined that the international match calendar was not of relevance in establishing whether clubs were obliged to release players for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament.
In this regard, in view of the longstanding and undisputed practice (since 1988, clubs have always accepted the release of under-23 players for the competition), he deemed that recourse to customary law was justified. The FIFA Emergency Committee had also mentioned this principle in its decision.
In addition, the single judge took into account the decision of the FIFA Emergency Committee, which recalled that in 1988, the FIFA Congress had ruled that all players up to the age of 23 were eligible to play in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. The FIFA Emergency Committee had also stated that the same principle had been confirmed at the FIFA Congress in 2006.
Finally, the single judge stated that taking part in the Olympic Games was a unique opportunity for all athletes of any sporting discipline, and that it would not be justifiable to prevent any player younger than 23 from participating in such an event if his representative team had qualified.