Stuttgart will not release Okazaki


Stuttgart will not release striker Shinji Okazaki to play for Japan at the Copa America in Argentina this summer, the director of sport for the German Bundesliga club said Saturday.

Fredi Bobic gave a clear “No” Saturday when asked if Okazaki would be made available for the July 1-24 tournament, saying, “Is Japan in South America? It’s in Asia isn’t it.”

Okazaki put in a full shift but did not get his name on the scoresheet in Stuttgart’s 3-1 win at Tomoaki Makino’s Cologne. Defender Makino was kept on the bench.

Former Urawa Reds boss Volker Finke, now director of sport at Cologne, said he “didn’t yet know” if Makino would be given the green light to play in the Copa America.

Schalke has already objected to releasing defender Atsuto Uchida, who set up Edu’s equalizer in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Werder Bremen, to play at the continental championship.

Stuttgart’s refusal comes a day after Japan’s Copa America saga took a fresh twist as FIFA president Sepp Blatter reportedly denied that world soccer’s governing body would make European clubs release their Japanese players.

According to Friday’s online edition of Peruvian daily La Republica, Blatter made it clear Japan would not have rights to its Europe-based players.

He said Japan would have to hope that European clubs would be sympathetic to releasing their players.