Turkmenistan pulls out of Olympic qualifier, citing SARSPosted: Friday May 02, 2003 6:46 PM
Updated: Saturday May 03, 2003 2:27 AM
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Turkmenistan defied FIFA and refused to travel to Malaysia for an Olympic soccer qualifer because of the SARS outbreak in Asia.
Malaysia was declared a 3-0 winner by forfeit, Ahmad Khawari, spokesman for the Football Association of Malaysia, said Saturday.
FIFA, soccer's governing body, will determine if the result stands and whether to Malaysia must play the second leg of the home-and-home, total-goals series, scheduled to be held in Turkmenistan's capital city of Ashgabat on June 7.
If the forfeit holds up in the second-round matchup, Malaysia probably would advance to the final round of Olympic qualifying, which is for under-23 teams.
Khawari said Turkmenistan's soccer officials informed their Malaysian counterparts late Friday that the team was staying home on government orders. He said FIFA had rejected Turkmenistan's appeal last month to postpone Saturday's game.
FIFA ruled last month that Iran advanced to the second round because Maldives refused to play the first-leg match in Tehran, citing security concerns over the war in Iraq.
Malaysia has not advanced to the final round of Olympics qualifying since 1980.
Dyslexic referee failed to punish ugly fouls
OSLO (Reuters) -- Soccer players in Norway rarely got sent off for ugly fouls when referee Per Arne Brataas was on the pitch -- he suffered from dyslexia and hated having to write down names and offences.
"I was reluctant to give red cards. I didn't give yellow cards either so then I avoided having to write the reports," he told the daily Verdens Gang on Friday.
Brataas, 52, was formerly a referee in Norway's amateur fourth division. Referees have to fill in a form explaining why they send off or caution players.
Sweden to play England in centenary match
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -- Sweden and England are to play an international friendly on March 31 next year to celebrate the Swedish soccer federation's 100th anniversary, the federation's general secretary Sune Hellstromer said on Friday.
"During the federation's 100th anniversary in 2004 we will play a number of jubilee international games. On March 31 we will play England," he told Swedish daily Aftonbladet.
If both countries qualify for the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal and end up in the same group, however, the friendly will be delayed until after the tournament.
"We have a deal with England to play in Sweden during the first half of the year 2004, but if we end up in the same group in Portugal we'll postpone the game to a later date," Hellstromer told Reuters over the phone.
"It's a sporting judgement as both the coaches of Sweden and England don't want their teams to face each other ahead of the Euro (if they end up in the same group)."
England, who are coached by Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson, currently lead Group Seven with 10 points, one ahead of Turkey. Sweden are fourth in Group Four, two points behind leaders Poland with a game in hand.
"Taking part in this kind of jubilee game would be absolutely great," England assistant coach Tord Grip, who is also Swedish, said.
England have not beaten Sweden since a 3-1 victory at Wembley in 1968. Their most recent meeting was in last year's World Cup finals when their group match ended 1-1.
Australia to play Ireland in Dublin
SYDNEY (Reuters) -- Ireland have agreed to play Australia in a friendly international in Dublin in August after the Australians' match against Nigeria was cancelled.
Soccer Australia said in a statement on Friday that the Irish had offered to play them on August 20, following the cancellation of their proposed match with Nigeria in London on August 19.
The Australians, whose planned game against Argentina in late March was also cancelled at short notice, last played in February when they beat England 3-1.
Benfica interested in Brazilian Savio
LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- Benfica is eyeing Brazilian player Savio Bortolini, who is currently with Bordeaux on loan from Real Madrid, Portuguese media reported Friday.
Benfica would use Savio to replace star midfielder Simao Sabrosa, who's likely to leave at the end of the season, sports daily A Bola and O Jogo said.
Savio, capped 25 times for Brazil, transferred to Madrid five years ago from Brazil's Flamengo.
Benfica, led by Spanish coach Jose Antonio Camacho, is second in the Portuguese league, 11 points behind leader FC Porto.
S. Africa say Cup bid backed by 21 African countries
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -- A total of 21 African countries have backed South Africa's bid to win the right to host the 2010 World Cup finals, officials said on Friday.
Presidents of football associations belonging to the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the Council of East and Central African Football associations (Cecafa), met in Cape Town on Wednesday to discuss support for South Africa's bid.
They were invited to attend the formal launch of the South Africa 2010 World Cup campaign in Cape Town on Tuesday, followed by the match between South Africa and Jamaica in Cape Town on Wednesday.
The meeting was attended by all 13 member countries of Cosafa and eight of the 11 members of Cecafa.
South Africa is one of six African countries bidding for the right to host the World Cup in 2010. The other five are Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia.
Korean coach Coelho seeking better ties with clubs
SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korean coach Humberto Coelho is seeking greater cooperation from European and domestic clubs to release players as he looks to get the team back on track after a disappointing start under his helm.
The former Portugal coach was forced to field a weakened squad, excluding seven European-based players, in the recent 1-0 friendly defeat to Japan and also had to cancel a three-day training session under pressure from domestic K-League sides reluctant to release players.
Coelho would leave at the weekend for a trip to Europe, which would include a visit to the Netherlands and also a return to his native Portugal, a spokesman at the Korea Football Association told Reuters on Friday.
South Korea's European-based players include striker Seol Ki-hyeon, who plays for Anderlecht, midfielder Lee Young-pyo of PSV Eindhoven and Kim Nam-il of Excelsior.
On his return in late May, Coelho will also visit the 12 clubs in the K-League to try and build a better relationship and avoid a repeat of the problems he had ahead of the Japan match.
"I will visit (the K-League) football clubs starting from May 21. I will discuss their problems (in releasing players for the national team) and try to develop closer relations with those teams through dialogue," Coelho was quoted as saying in the Korea Times newspaper.
South Korea were held to a 0-0 draw by Colombia in March in their first match under Coelho despite dominating possession.
In his next game, substitute Yuichiro Nagai snatched a freak injury-time goal as Japan beat their 2002 World Cup co-host on April 16.
Coelho faces high expectations after South Korea reached the World Cup semi-finals on home soil last year under the stewardship of Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who now coaches PSV.
The former Benfica player's contract will run until the end of August next year but there will be an option to extend it until the 2006 World Cup finals, depending on how South Korea perform at next year's Asia Cup.
Ajax, Feyenoord players banned after fight
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- Ajax's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and captain Christian Chivu were banned six and three matches respectively Friday for fighting during a match against archrival Feyenoord.
The Royal Dutch Soccer Association also banned Feyenoord striker Pierre van Hooijdonk for three games after the brawl at an April 16 Amstel Cup semifinal, which Feyenoord won 1-0.
Feyenoord and Ajax are battling for second place in the Dutch Eredivisie, or premier league, with Ajax one point ahead of Feyenoord and 8 points behind leader PSV Eindhoven, with just five games left to play. Only the top two Eredivisie teams are guaranteed a spot in Europe's Champions League next year.
Ajax will miss Ibrahimovic sorely in the final stretch of the competition, as he is the team's top scorer and its only designated center forward. However, Ajax faces less threatening opponents while Feyenoord and PSV play each other in one of their remaining games.
The suspended players have four days to appeal the decision. Ibrahimovic most likely won't do so because his initial punishment was increased by one match after he turned down an initial offer of a five-game ban.
Ibrahimovic punched a Feyenoord player, while Chivu swung at another and missed. Van Hooijdonk kicked an Ajax defender and was red-carded on the spot.
Feyenoord has said it will appeal the decision, giving Van Hooijdonk a chance to play in an Eredivisie match Sunday against fifth-place FC Utrecht. Feyenoord also plays Utrecht in the Amstel Cup final next month.