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The Independent Online

The players of the Spanish First Division club, Sporting Gijon, are in trouble after betting that they would lose or draw a league match at Real Oviedo. The game ended 0-0.

The Gijon players won about pounds 45,000 from 's football pools thanks to that result - the match was played after 13 of the other 14 matches on the coupon had finished.

"The bet was decided by dice," the Gijon forward, Francisco Luna, claimed. The players have also pointed out that they lost about pounds 2,250 each in bonuses by not beating Oviedo. They have, however, promised to stop doing the pools.


The Italian international defender Christian Panucci, who moved to Real Madrid last month, has hit out at his former coach at Milan, Arrigo Sacchi.

Milan were beaten 3-2 at home by Sampdoria last Sunday, and Panucci, who is expected to play against England next week, said: "I saw the game against Sampdoria on television and discovered a team in the image of Sacchi: full of doubts and sometimes dominated by fear. He has transmitted his insecurity to the players."

Panucci likened the atmosphere at Milan's training ground, after Sacchi's return to the club in December, to that of a barracks. "I had already done my military service. I couldn't put up with doing it again," he said.

"Sacchi talks a lot, but you never know if he is telling the truth," Panucci added. "Milan sold me for 8bn lire [pounds 3.5m] but nobody can believe that they needed money. The truth is I was the first on a list of people to be purged."


The Hamburg coach, Felix Magath, has suggested a radical reform of the Bundesliga in which play-offs would determine the champions and relegation would become a thing of the past.

"We should give spectators more decisive games. When it's almost about life and death, there's more excitement and more quality," he said. "No relegation would mean the fans would not be so aggressive. The hate which comes over now results from fear of relegation."


When England head for Poland for their World Cup qualifier in Chorzow on 31 May, they may not be the biggest attraction in the country - Pope John Paul II starts a tour of his homeland on the same day.

The Pope will be visiting 12 cities in a 10-day tour, and league matches during his visit will be rescheduled - but the Poles promise the international will not be affected.