Football Around The World

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A night-club complex which hosts the likes of El Weirdo Jazz Quartet and Dr Doom has gone to court to stop its name being used by the sparkling new stadium that is home to Ajax.

The former European champions were told this week that they could no longer call their stadium the Amsterdam Arena. The venue was opened with great publicity in August, but an Amsterdam court heard that a youth hostel and a nightclub complex had claimed the Arena title some four years ago.

In a civil lawsuit, the Village Company argued it had run the Arena budget 600-bed hotel, cafe and music hall complex since 1992. It complained that, since the Arena's opening, it had received deliveries and bills for the new stadium.

While Ajax have had to refund some season-ticket holders who were given seats with a poor view, the "other" Arena has been inundated with demands for tickets for top events at the new stadium.

An Amsterdam Arena spokesman said they had no plans yet to rename the stadium, despite the threat of a 5,000 guilders (about pounds 1,800) per day fine which is due to come into force in February.


The Asian Cup, which started this week in the United Arab Emirates, is providing Iraq with one of their rare opportunities to compete in the international football arena. They have, however, been placed in a first- round group alongside some politically sensitive opponents.

In their first Group B fixture yesterday, Iraq beat Iran 2-1. They must also play another former military foe, Saudi Arabia, plus Thailand. Kuwait, who are in Group A, have said they will withdraw rather than play Iraq in the later stages.

The Asian Cup is Iraq's first major international competition since the United Nations imposed sanctions on the Baghdad government for its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The sanctions ban air travel to Iraq, and few international teams have made the arduous 12-hour road journey from Amman, in Jordan, to Baghdad to play against the Iraqis.

"The sanctions have affected us severely," Nameer Abdul Kareem, of the Iraqi Football Association, said. "Our problems range from not getting balls and uniforms due to cash shortages, to not being able to hone our skills against other foreign teams."

That did not seem to be much of a problem yesterday, though, when Iraq beat Iran more easily than the scoreline suggests. Before the kick-off, Iraqi players stood in front of a picture of Saddam Hussein, holding hands and praying to the image of their leader.

At half-time, UAE police demonstrated martial arts skills, to show off their ability to deal with any trouble among the crowd of 15,000 in Dubai. After the match, helmeted police kept close watch and police dogs were used to contain the enthusiastic celebrations, when Iraqi fans chanted: "With our blood and soul, we redeem you, Saddam."


The players of the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia are enjoying their first taste of international football. After wins over Italy, in a friendly, and Slovenia in a World Cup qualifier in their last two games, the Bosnians are now preparing to face Brazil.

Ronaldo and Giovanni, both of Barcelona, will be part of the Brazilian squad called up to face Bosnia. The friendly, on 18 December, will be played in an exotic location: the Amazonian city of Manaus.

Rupert Metcalf