The European Soccer Clubs have won their appeal to withhold players from Olympic competition causing quite a stir among nations who were relying on their younger professional talent to make a bid for gold in Beijing this coming week. The appeal is directly related to players Lionel Messi of Argentina and Diego and Rafinha of Brazil. The reason why these teams have requested to withhold their players is because they don’t want to be without their stars as their respective seasons begin. Messi plays for Barcelona, Diego for Werder Bremen, and Rafinha for Schalke. Barcelona and Schalke have added concern because they will be playing their Champions League qualifying matches and failing to reach the group stage would result in the loss of millions of dollars for these clubs.
The appeal overturns the previous ruling by FIFA that mandated that all teams must agree to release any player under 23 for Olympic competition. This overruling could cause for even more clubs to recall their stars, like Ryan Babel of the Netherlands who might also be forced to return to his club in Liverpool. Liverpool was already hesitant to let him play, and now they have the backing to call him back. If a player were to stay in Beijing, it could then be considered a breach of contract.
As an outspoken fan of international play when it comes to soccer, I’m rather discouraged by this appeal that has been made. While I’m aware that Olympic soccer is much different from World Cup soccer given that the teams are made up primarily of players under 23 with 3 roster exceptions, seeing the youth duke it out is what makes it uniquely entertaining. Players like Messi deserve to be seen on the Olympic pitch, and according to this article, Messi is ready to defy his employers and stay in Beijing to play. We can only hope that Barcelona decides to respect his decision.