Football: Weah, fairest of them all

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The Independent Online
Joao Havelange, the Fifa chairman, said yesterday he would personally present the Milan striker George Weah with World Soccer's Fair Play Award despite the striker's attack on the Porto captain, Jorge Costa, after the Champions' League match on 20 November.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, Havelange said Weah had been provoked into the assault which left Costa with a broken nose. Weah has admitted head-butting Costa but said he reacted to racist taunts. He has offered to apologise if the Porto defender acknowledges his provocation. However, Costa, who needed surgery on his nose, has not accepted the offer and according to reports was considering suing the Liberian star.

Milan finally completed the signing of the Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist on Friday. His former club IFK Gothenborg are believed to have received in the region of pounds 2m for the coveted 22-year-old who signed a 41/2-year contract.

Vicenza, the surprise Serie A leaders, aim to stretch their advantage this afternoon when they entertain their nearest rivals Internazionale. Vicenza are one point ahead of Inter, with Juventus and Bologna in third and fourth position respectively.

Since taking the lead two weeks ago, Vicenza have played down their championship prospects: "I don't want to denigrate my side's achievement but I'm a realist and I know that the really strong sides in this championship have yet to play their best football," said Francesco Guidolin, the Vicenza coach.

The Dutch TV channel Sport7 will cease broadcasting tonight after shareholders decided on Friday to cut off all financial aid.

Sport7, Holland's first sports-only channel, is owned jointly by PTT Nederland, Philips Electronics, the Dutch television producers John de Mol and Joop van den Ende, the publisher De Telegraaf, the Dutch soccer association KNVB and the cable firm Telekabel.

In less than four months, Sport7's losses have reached about pounds 35m, because of poor viewing figures and protracted wrangling over broadcasting rights for Dutch major league soccer matches.

The Albanian coach, Astrit Hafizi, said yesterday it was important that his players brush aside the country's short ban by Fifa in order to concentrate on next Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland. Fifa reinstated Albania last Tuesday after their government lifted suspensions on various football officials.

Fifa had banned Albania indefinitely after its sports ministry had ordered the suspension of the Albanian Football Association general secretary, Eduard Dervishi, and dissolved the executive committee.

"We would be very happy with a draw in Belfast," said Hafizi. "Especially if one takes into consideration our difficult post-suspension situation and the fact that Northern Ireland are very keen to win."

Albanian squad: Blendi Nallbani, Armir Grima; Rudi Vata, Saimir Malko, Arjan Xhumba, Ilir Shulku, Afrim Tole, Nevil Dede, Arjan Bellai; Bledar Kola, Altin Haxhi, Sokol Prenga, Ervin Fakaj; Altin Rraklli, Viktor Paco, Fatmir Vata, Erjon Bogdani.

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