Football: Around the world

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The Independent Online
United Arab

Emirates

The Asian Cup matches between such politically sensitive opponents as Iran and Iraq, and Saudi Arabia and Iraq, have - so far - passed off peacefully both on and off the pitch. The biggest fuss at the tournament this week has, it seems, been caused by... helicopters.

Kuwait complained that helicopters hovering over the Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi had distracted their players during a 3-2 defeat by the host nation, the Emirates, when they squandered a first-half two- goal lead.

Peter Vellapaan, the secretary general of the Asian Football Confederation, reacted swiftly. "I have directed the Organising Committee that there shall not be any further helicopter flights directly over the stadium during matches," he declared.

Despite their airborne distractions, the Kuwaitis still managed to qualify for the quarter-finals, where they will face Japan on Sunday.

The last-eight stage could, given one or two shock results, produce this semi-final line-up: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. That would give the politicians something to bleat about...

Netherlands

Some of the most powerful and profitable Dutch clubs are considering setting up a new super league, according to reports yesterday in the Netherlands. A meeting of top club chairmen is planned for tomorrow in Eindhoven, where the formation of a smaller top division will apparently be discussed.

Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV would clearly be part of any new league - and there have been rumours that leading Belgian clubs like Anderlecht might be involved.

A spokesman for PSV Eindhoven said that the meeting was merely "a brain- storming session". The get-together comes at a time when the administration of football in the Netherlands is in crisis following the resignation (since withdrawn) of the board of directors of the Dutch Football Association over a failed television sports channel. Ajax and Feyenoord scuppered the channel, Sports 7, by disputing its right to broadcast their matches live, and it went off air last weekend amid mounting debts and poor ratings.

United States

The US national team will ensure participation in the final round of the Concacaf World Cup qualifying tournament if they beat Costa Rica in Stanford, California, tomorrow. As well as a win, though, they want revenge.

The States lost 2-1 in Costa Rica two weeks ago, when the home players and fans were less than friendly. The US coach, Steve Sampson, remembers the Costa Rican players talking, laughing and prancing around during the American national anthem. The goalkeeper Brad Friedel remembers the spit from fans that rained down from the stands, and the defender Alexi Lalas remembers the battery that hit him in the head.

"It was ridiculous, the worst I've ever seen," the US captain, John Harkes, said. "We have to behave like professionals [tomorrow] but the revenge factor will be there."

The US Soccer Federation has protested to Fifa about the lapses in security in Costa Rica, and Sampson says that action has been taken, although he was not specific. If the States lose, they only need to avoid a heavy defeat against Guatemala in their last match to ensure progress.

Italy

Italian male striptease artists revealed plans this week to form a "national" team to raise money for charity. The self-styled Italian national striptease soccer federation said they would train twice a week and play together every two weeks.

A spokesman said they would play in white and blue shirts rather than their usual working attire. "No loin-cloths, we prefer a classical uniform," the captain and federation president, "Nicolas", said. "After all, we are professional strip artists, not gigolos." The team will be coached by a former Roma defender Enzo Romano.

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