Chelsea cornered over Babayaro Olympic dream

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The Independent Football

Chelsea will not attempt to prevent Celestine Babayaro from playing in the Olympic Games, but have firmly blocked a request by the Nigerian Football Association for the player to join a pre-Olympics training camp next month.

Chelsea will not attempt to prevent Celestine Babayaro from playing in the Olympic Games, but have firmly blocked a request by the Nigerian Football Association for the player to join a pre-Olympics training camp next month.

Babayaro was named alongside Arsenal striker Kanu in Nigeria's provisional squad for the Sydney Olympics in September, a tournament for Under-23s plus three over-age players.

The Nigerian FA asked for the 21-year-old Chelsea left-back to be allowed to join their training camp on August 6, before the start of the domestic season, but were given a firm negative response from the Blues.

But while Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has indicated that he will attempt to block Kanu's involvement in the Olympics, Chelsea accept that there is nothing they can do to stop Babayaro taking part, even though he will be away for up to seven weeks.

Chelsea have previously clashed with the Nigerians over his release for international duty, especially after he was late returning from the African Nations' Cup last season.

The Blues would face a fine, Babayaro being suspended from domestic action and even the possible deduction of points in the Premiership if they were to attempt to stop him taking part in the FIFA-registered Olympics event.

Chelsea assistant manager, Gwyn Williams, said: "We knew about the situation in January and there is nothing we can do about it."

Babayaro is therefore scheduled to leave England after Chelsea's away game at Aston Villa on August 27, but if holders Nigeria were to reach the final, he would not be available again until the game against Sunderland on October 14.

The Blues' only comfort is that they at least have cover for Babayaro in the form of Graeme Le Saux, who is due to make his comeback from a lengthy injury at the start of the season, and youngster Jon Harley.

Babayaro would, meanwhile, be playing in group games against Honduras, Australia and Italy before possible knock-out ties in the last eight on September 23, semi-finals on September 26 before the final on September 30.

Babayaro revealed the Nigerian FA want him to captain the team at the Olympics and that despite his commitment to keeping his first-team place at Chelsea, it is impossible for him to refuse the international call-up.

"I've been there before. I was part of the team that won the gold medal at Atlanta in 1996," he told ClubCall.

"At the end of the day, I play for Chelsea and at the same time I play for the national side of Nigeria. This is the A side but I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

"They all want me to play. But I don't have a choice though, it's a national call-up and that's just how it goes."

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