Football: Mystery as Souness banned by Benfica

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GRAEME SOUNESS, who was fired as Benfica's coach last month but is serving out his contract until the end of the season, has been told to stay away from the club. The precise circumstances of the ban are murky, but following a 1-1 home draw on Sunday against lowly Campomaiorense, the Benfica president, Joao Vale e Azevedo, was reported as saying: "It's related to things that happened on the Benfica bench during the game and afterwards." Defender Steve Harkness and Souness's assistant, Phil Boersma, have also been suspended. According to the sports paper, O Jogo, Vale e Azevedo was angered by Souness's passivity on the bench. He was not too happy either, said O Jogo, that Harkness had sniggered behind his back and made fun of him in the dressing- room. "This man is not a man of his word," Souness said yesterday of Vale e Azevedo. "This man tells lies. He's a dangerous man," Souness added, without elaborating. The former Benfica player Sheu Han will coach the Lisbon club for the time being.


EGYPT CONFIRMED yesterday that it has withdrawn its bid to host the 2006 World Cup. "We are out, it's over from our side," Samir Zaher, head of the Egyptian Football Federation, said. He said the federation wanted to go ahead but had failed to win government support. "We cannot afford to say yes unless the government says yes," he added. "It was a matter of finance. They were not interested in giving a guarantee."

Brazil, England, Germany, Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco remain in the running. South Africa has said it plans to invite the other African countries to a summit in Johannesburg this month to discuss a unified African bid, but Morocco's announcement last week that it intended to go it alone means there is little hope of harmony on the issue.


REFEREE ANTONIO Lopez Nieto earned himself a place in the record books on Sunday night when he showed the yellow card 16 times during the Athletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid match. "I think he was having a laugh out there with his whistle," Jesus Gil, Atletico's owner, said. In a match with just 33 fouls, the official's booking rate reached nearly 50 per cent of misdemeanours. Two players were sent off for receiving two yellows each.


CARLOS VALDERRAMA, now playing with the Tampa Bay Mutiny in the US, has said he would like to be a coach one day. His dream team would include Faustino Asprilla. "But if he doesn't behave I would throw him out without a second thought," Valderrama said, perhaps forgetting his displeasure at having to leave his last club, Miami Fusion, after falling out with his coach.