Student sport: South Africa upsets Fifa

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The Independent Online
A CASH crisis meant a third of South Africa's team for the World Student Games here had to be left at home, with the withdrawal of their football squad threatening to cost more than just the chance of medals. Their absence may have a bearing on South Africa's 2006 World Cup bid.

Only two of the 16 South African swimmers selected for the 20th World Student Games made it as far as the Mediterranean island, while the country's tennis team was cut by half, to just four. Fencers and volleyball players have also been affected. In all, about 60 of the team failed to make the trip.

"The grant we received from our government could not cover all our costs [about pounds 100,000]," Malumbete Ralethe, the South African chief of mission, said.

"It is a great shame," Ralethe said of the missing footballers, "there were many fine young players in the squad."

Algeria, who might have replaced South Africa had officials been given more than 24 hours' notice, may consider that the late withdrawal is more than a shame. Officials here from Fifa, football's world governing body, have suggested that South Africa may face a fine. The cost to South Africa's 2006 World Cup bid could be high.

In the pool, Mark Warkentin, a Californian journalism student, could make history. After winning the 200 and 800 metres freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay, he is on course for a record five gold medals at these Games. Today he swims in his best event, the 400m freestyle.