Thirty-five Romanian World Cup soccer fans, some of whom said they feared for their lives if they returned to their country, requested political asylum Saturday in Italy, authorities said.
A spokesman for the dissidents, who declined to give his name, said the 35 included students and participants in the revolution that toppled the late ruler Nicolae Ceausescu.
The dissidents came by bus to Rome from the Romanian team's headquarters at Telese, some 40 miles northeast of Naples, where Romania is to play against Argentina on Monday.
Upon arrival in Rome, the 35 Romanians staged a small demonstration outside the Romanian Embassy to protest the recent repression of anti-Communist demonstrations in Bucharest.
Fabrizio Gallotti, director of the Police Foreigners Department, told the Romanians he would pass on their request to the Interior Ministry for a Monday decision, and they returned to Telese.
U.S. player Bruce Murray says he has no idea what the U.S. team will do when the World Cup is over. And he's not happy about it.
Because there isn't a major professional soccer league in the United States, most national team players are under one-year contracts with the U.S. Soccer Federation. Murray says he hasn't been told if the USSF will keep the team together.
"The federation wants to keep us in the dark," he said Saturday. "I don't think it's lack of organization. I think it's a master plan."
USSF President Werner Fricker responded by saying players had been told the team will continue to play about 20 full international games a year. He also said players should give complete focus to the World Cup.
"If we're going to do our job, we have to concentrate 100% on that job," he said. "That sure as hell hasn't happened."
After the World Cup, some U.S. players are likely to sign with European clubs.