Blatter urges footballers to follow Messi example
COVENTRY, UK — Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, has urged footballers to follow the example of Argentina’s Lionel Messi if they want to play in future Olympic Games.
Messi took a stance against his club side Barcelona so he could compete in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
With many top footballers being denied the chance to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Blatter believes the onus is on individuals to force the hands of their managers and clubs.
In an exclusive interview with ONS, the FIFA president said: "I think it is a pity that certain players are not here.
"The former German player and coach Jurgen Klinsmann wrote in his book that he was a world champion, a European champion and an Olympic bronze medallist , and the most wonderful souvenir he had was that bronze medal.
"Everyone should embrace the spirit and play in the Games if they want to. The problem is that the national associations are not making the right contacts with the clubs.
"I think the players themselves would like to come.
"They should do what Lionel Messi did in Beijing in 2008. He made a stand with (his club) Barcelona and they allowed him to go to the Olympics. He won a gold medal. He was a champion.
"For 2012 and 2016 our congress made a decision that all players under 23 must be released but the national associations do not put pressure on the clubs. If they don’t we have no powers to free the players.
"The Olympics has something special for football. Those players who are here should stay in the Olympic Village. They stay in their own hotels and that is not in the Olympic spirit.
"But on the other hand football has taken the Olympics to the rest of the country — to Coventry, Newcastle, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow — and that is good for the spirit of the Games."
Blatter has been impressed with the organisation at London 2012 — and hinted it could stand England in good stead if they decided to bid for the football world cup again.
He said: "Football has always been a big and important part of the Olympics.
"Now with the Olympics having come to London, I feel that football has come home.
"Last time we had a big competition here was the world cup in 1966. England was so eager to get the world cup in 2006 and 2018 but was not able to get it.