Football: Apologetic Asprilla

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EXECUTING AN about-turn as swift and unexpected as anything he can produce on the field, Faustino Asprilla yesterday apologised for his outburst against the Colombian coach and pleaded for the chance to be reinstated in his country's World Cup team.

"If the team coach considers my participation to be important, I am ready to submit willingly and in a disciplined way to the rules demanded in a World Cup," said a tearful Asprilla in a statement he read to reporters outside his Paris hotel.

"The coach decided to kick me out of the squad because of what I said. Nobody wants to continue being a part of this team more than I do. With respect... through these words I would like to apologise to the president, to his executive, to the coach, to my colleagues and above all to the Colombian people."

It is a different stance from the one the former Newcastle striker took after Colombia's defeat by Romania on Monday when he criticised Hernan Dario Gomez's decision to substitute him late in the game and claimed the coach had his favourites in the team.

Gomez, who in an earlier twist yesterday announced that he was quitting after the World Cup, replied that the player should return home if he felt that way. When Asprilla failed to turn up for the next day's training Gomez said he had taken his own decision to exclude himself.

"We have been through difficult times but we still have a chance of going forward," Asprilla added. "On the field or off it I will be urging on our team."

Gomez told Colombia's Radio Caracol he had not ruled out readmitting Asprilla. "The truth is, those are nice words by Faustino but I don't know what the decision will be."

He denied his decision to step down - the final group fixture with England a week today could be his last - was related to the Asprilla upset. "I'm on my way out, I've fulfilled my promise to bring Colombia to the World Cup," said Gomez who is known to be fed up with external criticism and interference from the Colombian President Ernesto Samper who tried to persuade Gomez to reconsider his Asprilla decision.