Football: Havelange is cleared to extend his Fifa rule

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The Independent Online
JOAO HAVELANGE'S strong hopes of prolonging his tenancy of the most powerful position in football, the presidency of Fifa, were reinforced immeasurably yesterday when the six continental federations announced they would not promote anyone to oppose the 77- year-old Brazilian autocrat in the June election.

Havelange has been assiduously wooing the respective federations and his only real concern had been the attitude of Uefa, Europe's governing body, which has been uneasy about the emasculation of its own influence and the loss of more World Cup places to non-European nations. But a Uefa executive committee meeting in Barcelona last week resolved not to field a candidate such as the favoured Italian, Antonio Matarrese, against Havelange, a decision which was

announced in Zurich yesterday.

'There were things that we had to get answers for (from Fifa) and as the answers were sufficient we saw no reason for going against the rest of the world,' the Uefa president, Lennart Johanssen, said. 'The role of Uefa for the future is protected.'

Since replacing Sir Stanley Rous in 1974, Havelange has overseen the rapid expansion of the game's commercial side but an unseemly dispute with Pele, who he banned from the World Cup finals draw, alienated many, including Sepp Blatter, Fifa's general secretary. Blatter is considered a logical successor to Havelange, but will now have to wait four more years. Blatter was cautious. 'We don't know what will happen in 1998,' he said.

Mark Stein, an absentee in Chelsea's last seven matches with ankle trouble, resumed light training yesterday, four days before the FA Cup semi-final against his first club,

Luton Town, at Wembley. 'Although we don't have too great hopes about him for Saturday I wouldn't call his chances completely dead,' Peter Shreeves, Chelsea's No 2, said.

More than a quarter of a million people attended Premiership games on Easter Monday, the aggregate of 251,187 taking the season's tally to 9,044,798. The Premier League expects the 10 million mark to be broken in the last week in April - the first time this milestone has been passed since the 1981-82 season.

Diego Maradona faced the press without an air-rifle yesterday but still managed to aim some verbal pot- shots at his inquisitors. 'They speak of Maradona as if they knew about football, and I'm sure none of them has ever run 100m,' Maradona said. The Argentinian stressed he has not ruled himself out of this summer's World Cup finals. Giving himself a 70 per cent chance of going, the 33- year-old said: 'Though a little old, maybe I'll be bold and play.'

The 27-match unbeaten run of Paris-St-Germain, Arsenal's Cup- Winners' Cup opponents at Highbury next week, ended last night when they lost 3-0 at Nantes. 'It had to happen one day,' PSG's deputy chairman, Michel Denisot, said. 'But the players have a week to rest before facing Arsenal and I can tell you it will be a different story.'