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WORLD SPORTS SCENE / RANDY HARVEY : With Their Star Player Out, So May Be Netherlands' Hooligans

April 12, 1993|RANDY HARVEY

If the Netherlands fails to qualify for soccer's 1994 World Cup, it would not entirely disappoint U.S. organizers because Dutch hooligans are among the most notorious. Our streets will be safer if they stay home.

Now, for the downside. Staying home with them would be striker Marco Van Basten, arguably the world's best player.

After undergoing ankle surgery for the third time in December, Van Basten thought he would be out for a few weeks. But the weeks have turned into months. He said in an interview last week with a London-based newspaper, the European, that he might not return until late May.

Without Van Basten, the Netherlands has experienced unforeseen difficulties in its World Cup qualifying group, struggling to stay even with England and Norway. Now it appears certain Van Basten will miss upcoming games against those two teams. Since only two teams ultimately advance, those games are crucial.

The Netherlands expected a challenge from England. But Norway? The Norwegians, who have not advanced to the World Cup's final round since 1938, attribute their recent success to a new, all-business, no-nonsense approach to the sport.

"We don't have any Maradonas or Peles," said Arne Myhrvold, president of Norway's Olympic Committee, in a recent interview. "But we can train harder than Maradona, and we can organize the play better than anyone else."

After her three-fall, free fall out of first place in the Hershey's Kisses Pro-Am last Wednesday night at the Sports Arena, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan agreed to resume seeing a sports psychologist after a two-year hiatus.

Her coach, Evy Scotvold, explained that Kerrigan's family held some old-fashioned, albeit not uncommon, prejudices against psychologists, believing that going to them implied a mental illness. As recently as last Wednesday morning, even Kerrigan was debating with Scotvold about whether she needed to return to the couch.

"Obviously, I've hit a big low," she said after her embarrassing performance.

One skater's big low is another's big high. Caryn Kadavy's victory in the Pro-Am was a popular one within the sport.

Third in the world in 1987, she was in position to win a medal in the next year's Winter Olympics at Calgary after the first two phases of the competition. But she was so ill with flu that she could barely watch the long program on television, much less skate in it.

In professional competitions, she was 0-for-5-years until Wednesday night, when she beat all three women who represented the United States in this year's World Championships.

"This is like the Olympics I missed," she said.

Inspecting the Sports Arena during the Pro-Am were officials from the U.S. Gymnastics Federation. They liked what they saw, all but finalizing a deal to bring a meet involving the United States, the Ukraine and Belarus to Los Angeles in July.

If all goes as expected in this week's World Championships at Birmingham, England, the meet at the Sports Arena will feature two of the sport's dominant performers, Belarus' Vitaly Scherbo, who won six gold medals in the 1992 Summer Olympics at Barcelona, and the United States' Shannon Miller, who won five medals at Barcelona.

Eight coaches, including USC's Mark Schubert, recently told the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel they want to see the authority of Ray Essick, U.S. Swimming's executive director, decreased.

"Coaches and swimmers want more of a voice in running the sport," said Doc Counsilman, longtime Indiana University swim coach and an Olympic coach in 1964 and '76. "The set-up is such that it is one man making all the decisions, and quite frequently the decisions have been wrong."

The coaches also asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to investigate whether money it contributes to the federation's aquatic research center at Colorado Springs, Colo., has been properly used.

Greek basketball fans are developing a reputation as bad as that of soccer fans in other countries. As a result, coins and cigarette lighters--popular projectiles--will be confiscated from fans when they enter the arena at Athens this week for Europe's Final Four, which involves the continent's best professional teams.

Basketball's international federation, FIBA, almost moved the Final Four after followers of a Greek team, Aris Salonica, ripped seats out of an arena during a recent tournament at Turin, Italy, and threw them at supporters of the team from Istanbul, Turkey.

That was the second incident involving a Greek team this season. FIBA officials have warned Greece's basketball federation that its teams might be banned from European competition if there is further trouble this week at Athens.

Playing in its own arena, PAOK Salonica is the favorite, although its first-round opponent is an Italian team, Benetton Treviso, that features the No. 1 player on the Chicago Bulls' wish list, Croatian Olympian Toni Kukoc, as well as former Laker Terry Teagle.

Glue has been added to the list of banned substances.

No, athletes aren't suspected of sniffing it. But some table tennis players are using toxic, chlorine-based glues to attach the rubber surface to the wood on their rackets. The International Table Tennis Federation has approved a detector to sniff out the illegal rackets at this year's World Championships.

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