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Long ball to rule the roost

FIFA, the governing body of world football, has run into a major problem. Fifa voted in May to introduce measures designed to reduce the time- wasting tactics that have bedevilled recent tournaments. From 25 July, when the Olympics start (or next Friday when the Americans meet Italy in the first action of the Games), the new rules will be in force, but already the key one has been rendered virtually useless. The latest change, to Law XII (Fouls and misconduct), reads: 'on any occasion when a player deliberately kicks the ball to his own goalkeeper, the goalkeeper is not permitted to touch it with his own hands'. If he does an indirect free-kick will be awarded to the opposition.

The new rule arrived burdened with sub-clauses, explaining what 'kicks' meant (using the foot), that deflections were permitted and the exact nature of 'an intentional pass'. Simple stuff on paper; a referee's nightmare in practice. Deflections are often difficult to judge - witness the debates on whether an own goal is really that or just unintentional contact. Referees could find the amendment unenforceable. Every pass must be weighed by officials as well as the man on the ball.

Also, footballers are ingenious creatures. Rules, like free-kicks, can be bent. In Germany this week, Bundesliga professionals were circumventing the law by kneeing the ball back to the keeper. One Fortuna Cologne player was sent off for doing this. His club are appealing while the German football federation expressed its confusion. Fifa says it will judge events in Barcelona before working out how to explain it properly to referees. Poor referees. And poor spectators. The rule unwittingly encourages long-ball football. Kick it long, sprint forward and see how the opposition's defenders deal with the ball. The ball will end up in the crowd, blasted there by a scared full-back. What price Cambridge United v Wimbledon at Wembley in the FA Cup final? Fifa rules, OK?

Bitter-sweet A BITTER story with a sweet taste - the Pakistan and England cricketers are about to soak up some of Tetley's liquid assets. The tourists are one win away from earning pounds 50,000 from the brewery for their performances against the counties this summer while England's Test squad have a further opportunity to drain Tetley's resources. The brewers are stumping up pounds 100 per run and pounds 1,000 per wicket managed by the England 13 in tomorrow's Championship matches; all proceeds will go to the ITV Charity Telethon starting tonight.

Running amok IF Ian McSweeney was picked by England, Telethon would have Tetley's over a barrel. McSweeney, a batsman who plays in Oxfordshire for the Bix team, hit an unbeaten 206 against Benson last month, a total which, if matched by an English miracle tomorrow, would produce pounds 20,600. What is remarkable, as Gavin Pike from Cholsey in Oxfordshire points out, is his contribution to Bix's total: 265 for 7. The next highest score was 16. Benson's reply? 41 all out. Presumably, there was not much competition for man of the match.

Life's a rich beach THE American volleyballers will be missing one of their most influential members when they defend their Olympic title. Karch Kiraly, voted Most Valuable Player in Seoul, has decided to spend the summer on the beach. He will still be playing volleyball, though. Beach volleyball, a two-person offshoot of the main event, is big business Stateside where its leading practitioners can earn serious sums. Life's a rich beach for some. The English Volleyball Association is giving this country's best the opportunity to join the Americans. The winners of the current EVA Grand Prix, the second leg of which takes place at Broadstairs, Kent this weekend, will qualify for the World Series and practise their art on the sand courts of the Copacabana and Bondi beaches. Leading the way in the men's league are Bob Kittlety and Vince Joyce while Bob's wife, Mandy, and Mandy Glover dominate the women's group. The sport is growing rapidly, and given a decent dose of sunny weather should take off further. Its popularity stems from the fashionable setting (healthy bodies working out by the sea) and its injury-free reputation. 'The most dangerous problem is sunstroke,' the EVA's Peter Duff said. Today's action starts at 10am.

Fame in Spain WE all know about Spurs' links with Barcelona: El Tel, Nayim, the boy Lineker. But Erik the Viking? The tall Norwegian goalkeeper is now appearing all over Catalonia. Thorstvedt is pictured on the official Olympic football poster diving to reach a ball; instead of the Shelf as the backdrop, Thorstvedt is framed leaping over a satellite photo of the world. 'Reaching for the stars in the football firmament,' reads the blurb from Fifa, organisers of the Olympic competition. 'The goalkeeper defies gravity, even the football planet cannot restrain him.' Sounds more like Gazza.

Paws for thought 'HERE we logo, here we logo, here we logo'. Less than a month to go before the Premier League makes its debut, but the logo has already arrived. 'The crowned lion with its paw on the ball conveys superiority and control, demonstrating The FA Premier League's elite status,' reads an accompanying missive from the designers. 'National and international coverage will make the logo recognizable as the hallmark of British football, attracting sponsors from around the world.' The hallmark of British football? The Scots, whose fans and players provided Britain's only decent moments at the European Championship in Sweden, might disagree.

Name-dropping BASEBALL is America's game, or so they say. In the All-Star match on Tuesday night in San Diego, 11 of the contestants were foreign. Puerto Rico provided six, the Dominican Republic two, and one each from Canada, Nicaragua and Panama. This was not even a record. In 1968, 13 had been born outside the US.

Pontificate JOHN JACKSON, from Leicester, wins a bottle of Aberlour Malt Whisky for his peace-inducing entry to the Roy Palmer limerick competition, which occasioned some bizarre rhymes from embalmer to marijuana. Given a recovered pontiff, Jackson suggests . . .

Impartial, fair-minded Roy Palmer

Could have used more tact, been calmer

Now our only hope

Is to call up the Pope

And at square leg - the Dalai Lama.

What rhymes with golfing commentator Peter Alliss. Entries to Sports Diary Limerick, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

RENATO, Botafogo's international striker, has been dropped for tomorrow's Brazilian championship final second leg against Flamengo - for inviting a Flamengo player over for a barbecue after the first leg.

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