Football: Woeful week for stroppy Stoichkov

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The Independent Online

A LISTLESS Bulgarian side were beaten 2-0 in a friendly international in Buenos Aires this week - a result which was something of an embarrassment for Bulgaria's top striker, Hristo Stoichkov.

On arrival in Buenos Aires, Stoichkov had said that, without their former captain, Diego Maradona, "did not exist." The result helped to prove that his statement was somewhat fatuous - and Stoichkov was ineffective and was substituted at the interval.

Stoichkov's replacement, Emil Kostadinov, another veteran forward, fared even worse. He was sent off for elbowing the home defender, Mauricio Pineda. The Fiorentina striker, Gabriel Batistuta, and Valencia's Claudio Lopez scored in each half for .

There was more bad news for Stoichkov yesterday. Having travelled to without the permission of his club, Barcelona, he discovered that his contract with the Catalan club had been terminated.

The 36-year-old Maradona, meanwhile, is pondering yet another comeback, this time with an Argentinian Second Division club, All Boys.

"I don't want pressure or problems of any sort, my wish is just to enjoy myself and help the club win promotion," said Maradona, who abandoned his last return with Boca Juniors back in October.


THE former national captain Rai was recalled by Brazil for the first time in nearly four years this week, while the volatile striker Edmundo found himself on the sidelines once again.

Rai was one of 12 foreign-based players picked for a friendly away to Germany in Stuttgart on Wednesday week. Edmundo, recalled for last month's Gold Cup after being left in the cold for six months for indiscipline last year, was dropped again, apparently due to his stormy relationship with his Italian club, Fiorentina.

Rai won the last of his 47 caps in the semi-final of the 1994 World Cup against Sweden. The coach, Mario Zagallo, has now given Rai another chance, following his resurgence with the French club, Paris St-Germain. However, Zagallo said: "This does not guarantee him a place in the squad for the World Cup. We must see."


THE top Albanian club Partizan Tirana are to boycott the league championship because of repeated attacks on players and referees inside stadiums.

Partizan decided on the boycott following an attack on the referee and his assistants in a match last month in Elbasani. The match officials said they were beaten in their changing room by a small group of Elbasani supporters at half-time.

Partizan, in second place in the league, will continue their boycott until the government and the football federation can assure them that violence will be stamped out. They could be relegated to the Second Division if they stick by their decision.

In an unrelated incident, the Partizan coach, Perlat Musta, is in a coma in hospital after being shot and seriously wounded. A neighbour in Tirana has allegedly admitted to the crime for "personal reasons".