Football around the world: Referee banned after farce in Prague

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The Independent Online
Czech Republic

IT may not come as much consolation to the likes of Joe Kinnear and Les Ferdinand, who have both been vocal on the subject recently, but it is by no means only English referees who are coming under increasing scrutiny.

A referee, Karel Vidlak, and his two assistants have all been suspended after several controversial decisions in last weekend's Czech League derby between Sparta Prague and Slavia Prague, which ended as a 1-1 draw.

A Czech Football Association commission gave Vidlak a four-game ban and one assistant, Jiri Vodicka, a two-game suspension.

The heaviest penalty went to the other assistant, Petr Petrik, who was suspended for nine matches, including two games from a previous suspended punishment.

"Poor decisions clearly influenced the outcome of the game," the FA said. Vidlak awarded Sparta a penalty - which was missed - for a foul which television replays showed was well outside the area. Sparta's late equaliser came after Petrik had failed to give an apparently clear offside decision.

After the match, which left the league leaders Sparta with a 10-point advantage over Slavia with only seven fixtures left, furious Slavia staff called for action against the officials and suggested that matches between top teams should be in the control of international referees - an idea the Czech FA rejected.

Brazil

THE famous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro will host its first international in nearly five years later this month.

The huge old stadium, which once had the largest capacity in the world when it was in better repair, will host a friendly between Brazil and Argentina on 29 April. The national team last played there in September 1993, when two goals from Romario earned a 2-0 win over Uruguay and a place at USA 94.

The Rio clubs that have used the Maracana since then are now playing elsewhere, in protest at inflated rents. The stadium faces an uncertain future, owing to lack of use and its decrepit state.

Since 1993 and their last competitive home game, Brazil have played all their friendlies in smaller cities, which have provided financial guarantees and regular full houses.

The venues have included the Amazonian jungle city of Manaus and small provincial towns like Sao Jose do Rio Preto and Teresina.

Mexico

FANS in Mexico are bemoaning the state of their national team before the World Cup finals. In the last game of a South American tour on Wednesday, Mexico were thrashed 5-1 by a Chilean club side, Universidad de Catolica. They were also beaten 3-1 by the Argentinian team, Boca Juniors.

For a country in fourth place in the Fifa world rankings, this is not good enough. Scorn is being poured on the new national coach, Manuel Lapuente, who replaced Bora Milutinovic - sacked after Mexico had won the final Concacaf qualifying round.

"We fired Bora and put in Lapuente for this? This is unacceptable," Valente Aguirre, the president of the First Division club, Leon, said.

The fans, who call their side the "Tri" after the three colours in the Mexican flag, are now calling the team the "Tri-tanic."

Lapuente remains defiant, however. "Everything is still according to plan," he insisted.

France

A BORDEAUX fan caught trying to smuggle flares into the Stade de France for last weekend's League Cup final is the first Frenchman to be banned from the World Cup finals.

A Paris court has fined 26-year-old Stephane Lecam 800 francs and banned him from all football stadiums for six months. To make matters worse for him, his side lost the final on penalties to Paris St-Germain.

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