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La Liga loses battle with FIFA over release of South American internationals

Barcelona’s match against Sevilla next month is one of two games that have been postponed by La Liga in Spain after it lost an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the release of players for upcoming South American World Cup qualifiers.

Barcelona’s visit to Seville and Villarreal’s home game with Alaves were both due to be played on Saturday, September 11.

However, they will now go ahead at a later date, while La Liga has also decided to shake up the remaining fixtures for that weekend after the failure of its appeal.

La Liga had contested FIFA’s insistence that players be released for duty with their countries, with South American national teams each playing three World Cup qualifiers in eight days between September 2 and 9.

It had complained that FIFA had unilaterally extended the September international window by two days to allow CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation, to organise the matches.

It means that Spain-based players may not return to their clubs until Friday, September 10, leaving them next to no time to prepare for matches that weekend.

“It is obvious that they would not be in a condition to compete properly for their clubs,” La Liga said in a statement, adding that it went to the CAS to “defend the integrity of the competition and the rights of the clubs affected.”

It pointed out that European governing body UEFA had not extended the international window despite national teams on the continent also playing three World Cup qualifiers in September, and warned that the situation is set to repeat itself in October.

Among the Spain-based players called up by South American nations for the upcoming qualifiers are Real Madrid’s Brazilians Eder Militao, Casemiro and Vinicius Junior, and nine Argentinians, including Rodrigo De Paul and Angel Correa of Atletico Madrid.

In a statement, FIFA welcomed the CAS ruling, saying “the compromise decision to add two additional days rather than three as requested by…CONMEBOL was taken by the competent FIFA body after consulting all relevant stakeholders and after taking into account all relevant circumstances”.

Last week FIFA president Gianni Infantino called for a show of solidarity from leagues after the English Premier League announced its clubs would not release players for international matches played in red-list countries.

That was due to frustration that players who travelled to red-list countries would have to follow UK coronavirus quarantine regulations ruling them out of several of their club’s matches.

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