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Posted: Friday August 1, 2008 11:47AM; Updated: Saturday August 2, 2008 10:22AM
Grant Wahl Grant Wahl >
INSIDE OLYMPIC SOCCER

Danish coach accuses Chinese of spying (cont.)

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China beat Denmark 3-2 at the Women's World Cup last September following allegations that the Danish were videotaped by Chinese officials.
China beat Denmark 3-2 at the Women's World Cup last September following allegations that the Danish were videotaped by Chinese officials.
AP

Heiner-Møller now says that he spoke with Domanski-Lyfors about the incidents after the game. Neither he nor Eggers Nielsen think that Domanski-Lyfors or her assistant coach on the Chinese team, Pia Sundhage, had anything to do with the dirty tricks or surveillance before the game. "I think Marika is a good coach," Heiner-Møller says. "I like her personally and also professionally. So there was nothing between her and me at all."

Sundhage, who like Domanski-Lyfors is Swedish, is now the head coach of the U.S. women's soccer team. When I asked Sundhage about the incidents, she said she had no part in the harassment and surveillance involving the Danish team last year.

"We didn't know anything," Sundhage told me, "and when I say we, I mean the head coach [Domanski-Lyfors] and me as the assistant coach. Coming from Sweden, we know Denmark very well. We played against them, we watched them, so it wouldn't have been necessary to do any cheating in order to see how they play.

"After awhile we found out there were rumors about Chinese leaders having done this and that. Honestly, we just shook our heads and didn't know what was going on."

Eleven months later, members of the Danish team still don't know the identities of the two men who were caught behind the mirror at their hotel in Wuhan. "After the tournament we contacted FIFA and had a lot of questions about how this was at all possible in a World Cup," says Schou Nielsen, the Danish press officer. "FIFA took it onto the Chinese authorities and the local organizing committee, who are in contact with the [Chinese] police and the hotel. In November we got a letter from FIFA, which again apologized. They were told by police that it wasn't sports-related."

To the Danish players' surprise, the men who run the Danish soccer federation decided not to pursue the matter further. "FIFA and our federation agreed it wasn't a sporting matter," says Eggers Nielsen, who has retired from the national team. "I can't understand how they can say that, because it's pretty obvious that's why they were there. I think that FIFA didn't want to do anything about it because of the Chinese, and our federation didn't want to do anything about it because of FIFA. I guess they're afraid of FIFA, and because it was a women's team it didn't matter."

In May and June, Eggers Nielsen sent letters of protest from some of the Danish team members to the Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee. The goal, she says, was to launch an inquiry into what happened in China last year. But the IOC replied that it would not pursue a case over which FIFA had jurisdiction.

FIFA, for its part, considers the case closed.

"FIFA has great respect for every team's need for privacy during its events," FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot wrote to SI.com in an e-mail. "We were therefore very troubled when we learned of the disruption of a Danish team's private meeting last year at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. FIFA deemed to have used all appropriate means available to a sports federation to deal with this case as intensively as possible and therefore considers this regrettable incident as closed."

Zhu Wenxiu, a media official for the Chinese Football Association, denied the allegations to Agence France-Presse after the China-Denmark game last year. "We heard about this but after an investigation it was found there was no such incident," he said.

For his part, Heiner-Møller continues coaching the Danish team, which didn't qualify for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament. "One thing I learned from being in China is that I am not going to accuse anybody of anything," he says. "These guys at our closed practice session, maybe they were from a TV company? Maybe they think I am a fantastic coach and want to see how you are going to make your set-pieces, because that's what you are doing in closed sessions?"

Does Heiner-Møller have any advice for visiting delegations at the Olympics?

"I wouldn't tell anybody that they should look over their shoulder or anything like that, but I think that in every preparation, if you're going to the Olympics in the U.S. or London or China, you have to find out which kind of challenges do you meet in these countries," he says. "I hope the Chinese Olympic committee and football federation have learned from this, and in the future will make sure this doesn't happen again. It doesn't matter if it was a TV crew or somebody from the hotel or whoever it was. Because I don't think that's the way that anybody should be treated at a World Cup or an Olympics."

Heiner-Møller says he has tried to move on from a forgettable Women's World Cup. He was suspended for Denmark's last two games of the first round after FIFA ruled that he had come into contact with the fourth official while trying to exhort his team in the final minutes of the loss to China.

Nearly a year later, I asked Heiner-Møller if he had received any personal apologies from World Cup organizers after he discovered the two camera-toting intruders behind the one-way mirror.

"No. Not at all," he said. "I got a suspension."

 
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