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The Independent Online

Even by the standards of his colourful career, last week was an exceptional one for Jose Luis Chilavert, goalkeeper for the Argentine club, Velez Sarsfield, and the Paraguayan national team.

Chilavert began the week by scoring the 32nd goal of his career with a long-distance free-kick to earn his country a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifier in Argentina. He ended it by defying a 13-month ban imposed by a Buenos Aires court (along with a three-month suspended jail sentence) for punching a stadium steward on the head in a match between Gimnasia la Plata and Velez in April 1994.

Chilavert, a national hero in his home country, is an extrovert character who wears a bulldog motif on his jerseys, abuses opponents in the press - and has declared an ambition to become president of Paraguay. He has scored 28 goals from the penalty spot and four from free-kicks, including one in a club game from inside his own half past River Plate's German Burgos, the keeper he beat in last week's World Cup tie.

After Chilavert was banned, his lawyers launched an appeal so that he can carry on playing for club and country while Fifa is investigating the case - it is unhappy that it has been dealt with by law courts rather than sporting authorities.

Chilavert claims that he is being victimised by the press and the authorities because of his nationality. "It bothers a lot of people that I am the best," he said. "But they're the sort who think that Paraguayans should be on a building site or cleaning people's homes."


First Atletico Madrid had to re-turf the Vicente Calderon stadium because of an invasion of worms - now Barcelona have been struck down by the Spanish pitch plague. Last night's Cup-Winners' Cup tie against AEK Larnaca had to be switched, just a few hours before kick-off, to Montjuic Olympic stadium. Heavy rain had caused fears of a postponement at Nou Camp, where the pitch cut up badly during last Saturday's "derby" against Espanyol.


Germany's 2-0 friendly win in Poland last week, their first game since winning the European Championship, was overshadowed by off-the-field events. The German foreign minister had to apologise for the conduct of some visiting "fans" in Zabrze after a gang of skinheads gave Nazi salutes during the German anthem and chanted: "We invaded Poland again" and "We came here to beat up Jews." Five Germans were this week fined and given probation orders for various offences, including burning Polish flags.