Maradona may play for Rest of World

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The Independent Online
Diego Maradona will rise from his sickbed to play for the Rest of the World against Europe in Barcelona on 27 April.

Didier Roustan, secretary-general of the International Professional Footballers' Union which is organising the match at the Montjuic stadium in Barcelona, named Maradona yesterday among several players taking part.

Maradona, who has been involved in protracted talks with Boca Juniors over a possible resumption of his career, is currently in a Buenos Aires clinic undergoing medical tests.

The 36-year-old former Argentina captain broke out in a cold sweat on a Chilean television chat show in Santiago on Monday night and was rushed to hospital.

Despite more than 20 World Cup qualifiers scheduled for Wednesday April 30, there should several leading players on both sides.

Roustan said Manchester United's French captain, Eric Cantona, an AIFP founder member along with Maradona, will play for Europe as well as Chelsea's Gianluca Vialli and Sampdoria skipper Roberto Mancini, who both do not figure in Italy's current plans.

With neither France nor Portugal playing internationals on 30 April, Laurent Blanc and Vitor Baia of Barcelona and Sampdoria's Christian Karembeu will also play. Thomas Berthold, a World Cup winner for West Germany in 1990, has also been named.

Among the South Americans who could play for the Rest of the World is Colombia's colourful goalkeeper Rene Higuita.

''It depends whether he is picked [for Colombia] after two poor matches by the present goalkeeper [Farid Mondragon]," Roustan said. Colombia are at home to Peru on 30 April.

Roustan also named the Uruguayans ,Gustavo Poyet of Real Zaragoza and veteran Ruben Sosa of Logrones, the Brazilian Elber, of Stuttgart, and possibly Argentinian World Cup winger Claudio Caniggia, who is currently without a club.

The AIFP is also trying to organise another match, possibly in Brussels, in benefit of Belgian Jean-Marc Bosman, whose case in the European Court of Justice brought about the end of quotas on foreign players in Europe. They have yet to fix the date and venue.

Chelsea's player-coach, Ruud Gullit, has been asked by Nelson Mandela to return to the Dutch national team for a special friendly match against South Africa in June, the Dutch Football Union said.

"Gullit has received an invitation, but so far we don't know if he will accept it," a spokeswoman for the union said.

The friendly international in Johannesburg on 1 June is billed as the Nelson Mandela Inauguration Challenge, an annual event since 1994.

The dreadlocked Gullit has in the past professed huge admiration for the South African leader. In 1987, when the former Feyenoord and Milan player was named European Footballer of the Year, he dedicated his prize to Mandela, at the time still in prison.

Gullit has said an invitation from Mandela would be a great honour and one he would be pleased to accept, assuming he recovers from his troublesome ankle injury.

He has not played for the Dutch national team since he walked out of preparations before the 1994 World Cup after a disagreement with the coach over tactics.