Football: Indian striker's historic move to Bury

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BURY WILL be the first English professional club to field an Indian player after the striker Baichung Bhutia was granted a work permit. Bhutia, an Indian international who has scored 25 goals in 40 appearances for his country, was originally refused a work permit but that decision has been overturned on appeal. The 22-year-old has been offered a three-year contract by Bury and will join his new club as soon as he arrives in England.

Phil Masinga, substituted during a recent home friendly international for South Africa after being a target of racial taunts, has changed his mind and decided to play in home matches if selected. The former Leeds player said after last month's Nelson Mandela Farewell match he would only play in away matches.

The Wolves manager, Colin Lee, has signed the Le Havre central defender, Ludovic Pollet, on a long-term loan deal. Lee plans to keep the 28-year- old at Molineux for the rest of the season, but a clause allows either party to sever ties during the first three months.

Alec McGivan, England's World Cup campaign director has ruled out doing any deals to help land the 2006 finals.

Five countries remain in the running to host the event but McGivan insisted that the Football Association would not enter into negotiations with any of the other competing nations. He said: "The days when a few countries could get together in smoke-filled rooms and do a deal are over. We will not be party to anything like that. Football is just too important - the World Cup is too important."

In January, Germany are reported to have approached South Africa offering to help their bid for the 2010 tournament in return for South Africa pulling out and backing the German campaign for 2006.

Nine months before the start of the European Championship, tickets available to the public are almost sold out.

Organisers of Euro 2000, to be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium, said yesterday they had only 5,000 tickets left for four matches, all in Belgium in June. Public sales started in March with 400,000 tickets available for 31 matches, 99 per cent of which have now been sold.

FIFA RANKINGS: 1 Brazil 838pts; 2 Czech Republic 772; 3 France 766; 4 Spain 757; 5 Germany 735; 6 Croatia 727; 7 Argentina 717; 8 Italy 714; 9 Norway 712; 10 Mexico and Romania 709. Others: 12 England 683pts; 28 Scotland 606; 34 Republic of Ireland 576; 71 Northern Ireland; 78 Wales 443.