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Football: Savage sent packing

ROBBIE SAVAGE, the Leicester City midfielder, was ordered to leave Wales' team hotel yesterday morning and dropped for last night's Euro 2000 qualifying match with Italy after displaying "disrespectful behaviour".

The Wales coach, Bobby Gould, took the action following Savage's appearance on Sky TV's Sports Centre on Friday, when he threw away a shirt belonging to the Italian captain, Paolo Maldini.

Savage was told to leave the team hotel by Gould at 7.40am yesterday, which left Wales with a 17-man squad for the match at Anfield, due to kick off last night. However, he was later seen having lunch with the squad but it was unclear whether Gould had relented and reinstated him to the team or the substitutes' bench.

A statement released by the Football Association of Wales said: "During the interview, Savage was seen to be both disrespectful to his team-mates and highly derogatory to the great Italian defender Paolo Maldini by throwing away his shirt.

"This morning team manager Bobby Gould asked the player to leave the team hotel and he has been informed that he has been removed from the team to play Italy this evening at Anfield, Liverpool. A decision will be taken later as to whether Savage will be offered the chance to rejoin the squad.

"The other members of the squad and members of the backroom staff offer their sincere apologies to Paolo Maldini for this disrespectful act."

The incident was repeated on Sky Sports yesterday morning. Gould said: "Players must realise that they have a duty to put-up on the field of play and shut-up off it.

"This type of `set-up' interview has caused problems in the past and is totally alien to the true spirit of the game which was so epitomised in the classic picture of Pele and Bobby Moore embracing and exchanging shirts in the Mexico World Cup of 1970.

"That was true sporting comradeship and what I saw last evening certainly was not, and I have a duty to uphold the good name of Welsh international football."

l The Russian team fell victim to the country's financial crisis when they were held up at Moscow airport in a row over money before they could fly to Ukraine for yesterday's European Championship match.

It took the arrival of an armoured car laden with hard cash from the state gas monopoly, Gazprom, which supports the national squad, for officials at Vnukovo airport to let the team leave for Kiev on Friday aboard a plane owned by Gazprom.