Football: South Africa fear Germans' Cup bid

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SOUTH AFRICA fear Germany are likely to beat them and England in the race to host the 2006 World Cup finals unless the African countries cut their prospective candidates down from five to one.

The chairman of the South Africa World Cup bid committee, Irvin Khoza, believes Germany will definitely secure the backing of the majority of available votes in Europe. He added that South Africa are not even guaranteed the four African votes because Egypt, Ghana, Morocco and Nigeria also want to stage the finals. Africa has never hosted the event, and the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, believes the continent deserves a chance if it meets stringent requirements.

South Africa have also rejected a plea from the German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, to withdraw from the 2006 race in return for German support in a 2010 bid. "Europe wants to determine when they are ready and also when we are ready. They are not entitled to decide when we are ready," said the South Africa bid chief executive, Danny Jordaan. He held talks in Nigeria and Ghana at the weekend, hoping to persuade the countries to withdraw.

Morocco, unsuccessful bidders for the 1994 and 1998 finals, are considered the biggest rival to South Africa, while England and Brazil complete the line-up seeking to host the 2006 finals. The winning bid will be announced in a year's time.

Pierluigi Casiraghi, the Chelsea pounds 5.4m striker who injured a knee in November, does not expect to be fit for the start of next season but hopes to play again before the end of the year. Still on crutches, he said: "I am a little bit better. I'm working hard to come back and play, but it's very difficult because the injury was very bad. Every morning and every afternoon I am working."

Referees in the Football League will abandon the innovation which saw them wearing unusual coloured shirts such as purple or yellow and revert to black kit next season.

Leeds United have been accused of "robbery" by Soccer Australia after signing teenager Jamie McMaster, whose parents emigrated from Scotland in the late 1960s.

The Soccer Australia National Youth Coach, Les Scheinflug, said: "It's a bloody disgrace. These English clubs are like robbers, stealing our best young players, then telling them the only way they will be signed is if they turn their back on Australia and play for England, Scotland or whoever."

Rugby's 10-yard advancement rule to punish dissent could be adopted by Fifa within two years after a successful pilot scheme in Jersey.