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The Wrexham centre-back, Barry Hunter, and Michael O'Neill of Hibernian have pulled out of Northern Ireland's two-match trip to Canada next week. The Manchester United defender Pat McGibbon has been added to the squad.

Pele, currently attempting to persuade Diego Maradona to play in Brazil, is confident the Argentinian can make a successful return to the game when his 15-month ban expires in September. Pele hopes to sign a deal with the 34-year-old Maradona, and loan him to his former club, Santos, of whom he is a director.

Palmeiras yesterday sacked their coach, Valdir Espinosa, after a run of poor results. Palmeiras, who have won both the So Paulo and Brazilian championships for the last two years, have gone six games without a win in the So Paulo championship, which has left them struggling to qualify for the second stage.

Brazilian players, led by the World Cup winners, Romario and Branco, threatened to go on strike on yesterday over what they described as the theft of gate money at Rio de Janeiro championship games.

Stef Rush - the 36-year-old brother of the Liverpool and Wales player, Ian - has been appointed manager of the Konica League of Wales club, Flint Town United, after six years as assistant manager of Colwyn Bay.

The former Danish international, Preben Elkjaer, has accepted his first training job as head coach of the Danish club, Silkeborg. Elkjaer, 37, played 69 times as a striker for Denmark between 1977 and 1988, and won an Italian league championship medal with Verona in 1985.

Tottenham Hotspur's reserve team beat Charlton Athletic 2-0 in the Avon Insurance Combination championship decider last night. If Charlton had avoided defeat, they would have been champions.

AVON INSURANCE COMBINATION First Division: Tottenham 2 Charlton 0 (at St Albans City).