Football: Di Canio absence accepted by FA

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THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION has accepted Paolo Di Canio's excuse for missing a meeting with its compliance officer, Graham Bean. The West Ham striker was due to meet with Bean, the FA's "sleaze buster", yesterday to discuss his recent outburst against Paul Alcock, the referee, but has instead returned home to Italy to visit a sick relative.

Di Canio accused Alcock of feigning stress since being pushed to the ground by the Italian in a match in September. However, the FA has accepted Di Canio's reason for missing the meeting and its spokesman, Steve Double, said: "The meeting has been rescheduled for one day next week. We understand that he will be back in this country at the end of the week."

Dion Dublin, the Aston Villa forward, will miss the Premiership match with Tottenham at White Hart Lane on 13 March through suspension. Dublin will have to serve a one-match ban after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season in Saturday's home defeat against Coventry City.

Olivier Dacourt, the Everton midfielder, has been suspended for two games as of yesterday and fined pounds 1,000 for reaching 11 bookings this season. Dacourt will miss the FA Cup quarter-final tie at Newcastle on Sunday, and the Premiership visit to Blackburn a week today. Silvio Maric, the Newcastle midfielder, could make his debut in that FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday, despite the fact that the 23-year-old Croatian has not played in more than six weeks. Maric completed his pounds 3.5m move to Tyneside last week, but the mid-season break in Croatia means he is short of match fitness.

Emile Heskey, Leicester City's striker, is to see a specialist to determine the extent of his long-term back problem. The England Under-21 forward has been dogged by the problem for several months and again had to be substituted in Monday night's home Premiership meeting with Leeds.

The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, has said harmonising the international calendar could not be achieved before 2005, making 2009 the first year in which his planned biennial World Cup could be staged. "We want to have a master calendar, but it is possible only after 2004. Contracts have already been signed for competitions," Blatter said in Zurich yesterday. "We could start in 2005."

Blatter accepted it would also not be possible to stage a World Cup in 2008 because the Olympic Games and the Confederations Cup would be held that year, leaving 2009 as the first viable year.