Football: Fast slows Palermo

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The Independent Online
It may be of little consolation to Bryan Robson, faced with the unlikely prospect of avoiding relegation in his nightmare season at Middlesbrough, but he is not the only manager pulling his hair out over problem's of dealing with foreign players.

Robson's counterpart at the Italian Serie B club Palermo is one example. Yesterday, the Sicilian club had to resign themselves to travelling to a tricky away game against Verona without their Moroccan midfielder, Abdelaziz Dnibi.

But Dnibi had not gone Awol in Marrakesh, nor was he suspended for talking out of turn to newspapers at home. He was observing Ramadan.

Dnibi's Moslem faith obliges him to undergo a period of fasting during the sacred month. The faithful are required to abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours.

"Dnibi cannot play if he does not eat from dawn to sunset," Tano Gullo, a club spokesman, said. "While we are playing in Verona, he will remain in Palermo to pray."

The 22-year-old joined Palermo from an Egyptian club in December, just in time for Italy's brief mid-winter break. He has played only one game since his arrival.

Meanwhile, Internazionale players trapped inside their stadium by angry fans after a match before Christmas yesterday found crowds barring the way into the San Siro.

This time, however, disaffected supporters were not to blame. The protesters were outraged dairy farmers, who were demonstrating against European milk quotas.