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Champions League

Schalke protest Drogba's tardy CL inclusion

Bundesliga club Schalke have officially appealed against Didier Drogba's inclusion in the Champions League. Drogba was granted eleventh-hour access for Galatasaray, his former employers in Shanghai dispute the transfer.

Schalke club manager Horst Heldt confirmed an earlier statement on Twitter on Thursday, saying the side would ask UEFA to check whether Didier Drogba was eligible for the Champions League.

"It would surely be negligent not to get the issue verified," Heldt said. The announcement came one day after Schalke's 1-1 away draw with Galatasaray in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, with Drogba setting up the Turkish side's goal.

Both the date of Drogba's inclusion and his move away from Shanghai Shenhua appeared to be contested.

Schalke pointed to the February 1 deadline, timed to coincide with the end of the Janaury transfer window, for registering players for the knockout phases of European competition.

European football's governing body, UEFA, only confirmed on February 5 that Drogba would be eligible to play in the Champions League. UEFA also said at the time, however, that this step followed provisional approval from FIFA, granted in the previous week and prior to the registration deadline.

Drogba's transfer, on an 18-month loan deal to Galatasaray in Istanbul, was itself fiercely contested. Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, which Drogba joined from Chelsea in the summer, called the move a breach of contract, announcing an appeal with world soccer body FIFA. Drogba, meanwhile, said that the club was not paying his wages.

The Ivorian international lifted the Champions League trophy in Munich last May, helping Chelsea to a penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich.

Wednesday's draw in Istanbul was feted by the struggling Schalke side, with manager Heldt praising his players and saying that European competition had "sharpened the senses." Under-fire coach Jens Keller, who took over midway through the club's domestic collapse in December, said Schalke "played a very, very good game in this heated atmosphere." In the Bundesliga, Schalke have only won one game since November.

The return leg against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen will be played - with or without Drogba - on March 12, just three days after the struggling Bundesliga club square off against regional arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund.

msh/rc (dpa, SID)