Football: Hertha `afraid for players'

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THE HERTHA BERLIN president, Walter Muller, said his team might not play their opening Champions' League match against Galatasaray in Istanbul today because of the risk on an earthquake.

"Uefa wanted to stop us from playing in our stadium because we had no folding seats and now we are expected to play in an area where there is a risk of a disaster," Muller was reported as saying yesterday.

"Pressure on Uefa [football's European governing body] will grow," he added. "We are afraid for our players. These are not normal conditions for a football match. The coach and the players will decide if they want to play or if they're going home."

The latest in a series of earthquakes shook the Istanbul region on Monday. Uefa had forced Hertha to have individual seats installed in Berlin's Olympic Stadium before their Champions' League qualifying tie last month.

In Italy, Andrea Sottil's early header gave Udinese a 1-0 victory over Denmark's Aalborg in a Uefa Cup first round, first leg match yesterday. Sottil rose above a crowd of players in the penalty area to nod home Martin Jorgensen's cross from the left flank in the ninth minute, before a crowd of about 20,000 at Friuli Stadium.

With Jorgensen, a Dane, directing the Italian team's attack, the hosts repeatedly created scoring chances in the first half, but only Sottil managed to hit the target.

Udinese showed fatigue after half-time, and the best opportunity to double the advantage fell to Roberto Muzzi but the striker shot narrowly wide of the near post following a breakaway in the 68th minute. Aalborg, forced to defend in numbers, rarely mounted serious attacks on the Udinese goal.

Elsewhere in the Uefa Cup, Crvena Zvezda of Yugoslavia were beaten 1- 0 at home by the French club Montpellier, thanks to a goal from Patrice Loko.

Milan have agreed to loan the French winger Ibrahim Ba to their fellow Serie A club Perugia for the rest of the season. The Milan coach, Alberto Zaccheroni, has made it clear that Ba did not figure in the club's plans, and the player was not put on Milan's Champions' League roster.

Ba turned down a proposed move to Middlesbrough earlier this month. In December, another English Premiership team, Newcastle United, withdrew its offer for Ba after the winger failed a medical exam. Ba, 25, joined Milan before the 1997-98 season.

The Bundesliga is experimenting with a silver ball for league matches. The German-made ball, named Cyber Series PT 13 Reflex, was used in Duisburg's meeting with Bayern Munich on Saturday.