BEIJING (AFP) — Barcelona finally allowed Lionel Messi to play in the Olympic Games on Thursday and the Argentinian superstar celebrated by grabbing the opening goal in his team's match with Ivory Coast.
"We have decided to let 'Leo' Messi play in the Olympics," Barcelona technical secretary Txiki Begiristain told reporters in the Spanish city.
The decision was made after Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola had held talks with the player and came despite the Spanish giants winning their battle with world governing body FIFA when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that clubs were free to prevent their players from taking part in the Games.
Defending Olympic champions Argentina defied the ruling by naming the 21-year-old Messi, who scored just before half-time, in their team to face the Africans in their opening game in Shanghai.
Guardiola, who was in New York where his squad had been playing a series of pre-season friendlies, wanted Messi back in Spain in time for the Champions League third qualifying round matches against Wisla Krakow which are scheduled for August 12/13 and then August 26/27.
German sides Werder Bremen and Schalke 04 also decided to let their Brazilian stars - Diego and Rafinha respectively - play at the Olympics but at a price.
With the law on their side, and with the Bundesliga season starting on August 15, the clubs said they will allow the duo to stay providing Brazil's Football Federation pay the players wages.
They also insist that there will be an additional fee and the players' insurance must be paid.
"We will release Rafinha for the Olympic Games, if the Brazilian Federation clarifies at short notice the basic conditions for his participation," said Schalke manager Andreas Mueller.
Brazil faced Belgium in their opener later Thursday and both men played in the south Americans' win.
Earlier Thursday, a furious FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that the CAS decision could have serious side effects.
"This could have a snowballing effect," said the 72-year-old Swiss.
"Other players could now be withdrawn from the tournament. We will then simply not have an Olympic tournament. We could of course revert to a beach football or five-a-side competition."
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