The FIFA Executive Committee has approved a measure by which clubs will be ordered to release under-23 players chosen to represent their countries in the Olympic Games soccer tournament. The competition is not part of the international match calendar, during which periods teams must release senior internationals. In the past, teams were not obligated to release players for junior competitions, which include the Olympic Games.
“The executive decided that the release of under-23 players by the clubs shall be compulsory,” FIFA said in a statement.
The 2008 Olympic soccer tournament was marked by a tug-of-war between Barcelona and Argentina over the release of Lionel Messi, who was 21 at the time. The dispute went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS ruled in Barcelona’s favor but the Catalan club decided to release him anyway. With Messi in the lineup, Argentina won its second straight Olympic gold medal.
The Olympic soccer tournament, which conficts with the European preseason, is restricted to under-23 players although each team can field up to three over-age players. It begins July 25.