Football: Cry freedom for president Gil

AROUND THE WORLD

Spain

JESUS GIL, the president of Atletico Madrid who was gaoled last week on charges of illegally channelling funds to the Spanish club, was admitted to hospital yesterday with high blood pressure. Gil was taken to hospital in Malaga from prison. Doctors said he was suffering from high blood pressure, probably because of stress and poor diet. He was expected to remain there for at least three days.

Gil, the mayor of Marbella, was gaoled without bail on charges of embezzlement and falsifying documents related to contracts signed between the town of Marbella and Atletico Madrid. The Primera Division club have worn the Marbella name on the front of their shirts in recent seasons.

Gil has been accused of channelling almost pounds 2m of Marbella funds to Atletico. His alleged crimes have not dented his popularity with the club's fans. During Sunday's 5-0 win home win over Extremadura, nearly 50,000 fans took advantage of Atletico's decision to waive admission fees for the match, in an effort to boost morale and show their support for their president.

Atletico's vice-president, Lazaro Albarracin, rallied the crowd before the game and passed on Gil's appreciation for the support shown since his arrest. "There are very few reasons that would lead our president to miss a match," Albarracin said, as a giant picture of Gil was displayed on the stadium's big television screen to chants of "Freedom for Jesus Gil".

In Malaga, where Gil was being held prior to going to hospital, several hundred supporters had continued their vigil at the weekend in front of Alhaurin de la Torre prison, carrying banners calling for his release. Some had been sleeping in their cars outside the prison since Gil was arrested.

South Africa

THE DUTCH champions, Ajax, announced yesterday they had taken a 51 per cent stake in Ajax Cape Town, a new club which will play in South Africa's Premier League next season.

The club has been formed by merging Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs. Seven Stars' owner Rob Moore and John Comitis, who owned Cape Town Spurs, will hold the remaining 49 per cent of Ajax Cape Town. Ajax will invest almost pounds 1m in upgrading Cape Town Spurs' facilities and the new club will adopt Ajax's training methods.

Ajax said their investment would mainly be aimed at strengthening the new club's youth department. Talented players will be offered the possibility of full-time or part-time contracts in Amsterdam. The Dutch club will have the right of first refusal on players.

Ajax already had a cooperation partnership with Seven Stars, the former club of the international striker Benedict McCarthy, who moved to Ajax in 1997. Ajax also said they were supporting the staging of the 2006 World Cup in Africa.

The former Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, was last week offered the job of coaching Seven Stars, who are to merge with Spurs at the end of the season. Several of his former Zimbabwean international team-mates are in the squad at Stars.

Cameroon

ROGER MILLA, the former Cameroon international striker, is depressed by the state of the game in his native country, following Fifa's decision last week to suspend its football federation and ban the national team from international competition.

"I'm disheartened. With our epic performances we managed to lift Cameroon to the status of a great football nation," said Milla, who inspired Cameroon when they reached the 1990 World Cup quarter- finals in Italy. "Now our country no longer exists, the light is going out."

Milla works in the youth department of the French club Montpellier, but makes no secret of the fact he would like to return home in some capacity. However, he added: "When I offered to help, I wasn't well received. Nothing was done to help me pull Cameroon out of the impasse."

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