German clubs release players for Olympics

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The Independent Online

Schalke and Werder Bremen are to allow their Brazilian players to compete at the Olympics after all, despite winning their case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport earlier today.

The U-turn comes after the clubs spent weeks battling Fifa's position that it was "mandatory" for clubs to release players aged 23 and under for the tournament, which begins in Beijing tomorrow.

Schalke defender Rafinha and Werder Bremen playmaker Diego are included in the Brazil squad.

Although CAS found against Fifa, ruling that clubs could not be forced to release players because the Olympics do not appear on the official Fifa calendar, the clubs consulted each other this afternoon before issuing almost identical statements.

"We will release Rafinha to play at the Olympic Games if the Brazilian Football Association quickly create the conditions for his involvement", said Schalke club general manager Andreas Muller, with Werder's Klaus Allofs echoing those statements in regard to Diego.

Those conditions include the provision of adequate insurance against injury, and the clubs have already contacted the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to finalise the terms of a deal.

"This decision is in line with Fifa's appeal to allow the player to take part in the Olympics," Muller added.

"We now expect the world governing body to support us in our talks with the CBF, particularly as what we are demanding is precisely what Fifa wishes to set down in its regulations in this matter."

Both clubs begin their seasons on Saturday in the opening round of the DFB-Pokal, with Schalke away to Homburg Saar and Werder Bremen travelling to Eintracht Nordhorn. Schalke also face a Champions League qualifier against Atletico Madrid next week.

With only a few days left before their competitive fixtures begin, both clubs said it was counter-productive to withdraw their players from the Olympics at such short notice.

"Not only do we have to come through the opening fixtures in the Bundesliga, we also have an extremely tough draw in the Champions League qualifying round in the shape of Atletico Madrid," Muller said.

"We could have done with our strongest squad for these matches. We firmly believe, however, that unfortunately there is absolutely no point in bringing Rafinha back one day before our opening game.

"All the frustration and the huge disappointment he would feel, coupled with the exertions of travelling, would not in our opinion have put him in a position to play to the best of his ability."

The clubs accused Fifa of delaying the case until the last possible moment in order to make it awkward for clubs to withdraw their players.

"Our decision would have been different if the legal position had been clarified earlier," Muller said. "In that case we wouldn't have let Rafinha go under any circumstances.

"Fifa and the CBF were aware of the situation months ago. I believe the matter was deliberately delayed until just before the Olympics to put the clubs in an awkward position."