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WORLD CUP '94 DAILY REPORT : Rothenberg Gives World a Lesson in U.S. History

June 16, 1994|From Staff and Wire Reports

Alan Rothenberg, chief organizer of the World Cup's U.S. edition, borrowed from Abraham Lincoln to assure officials of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, that the game has found a home in the United States.

At the opening of the 49th Congress of FIFA on Wednesday in Chicago, Rothenberg said, "We want the people of the United States to embrace this beautiful game," adding that "we are at the threshold of history."

Then, quoting from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, he said that "people will little note nor long remember what we say here, but they will not forget what they did here."

Delegates from 190 nations began a two-day meeting at which most of the issues already are decided. The highlight will be today's re-election--unopposed and probably unanimous--of Joao Havelange to a sixth term as FIFA president.

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In Chicago, Fair Play Awards, designed by FIFA to promote sportsmanship and abolish rough tactics, went to Nandor Hidegkuti, the Hungarian coach, player and administrator; and the Zambian soccer federation, which almost qualified for the World Cup with a team put together in weeks after the national team was killed in a plane crash.

The Order of Merit, FIFA's highest individual award, went to 10 people, including Gene Edwards of the United States and Norway's Gunn Nyborg for promoting women's soccer.

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Chicago, which had greeted the event with a yawn earlier in the week, showed a little World Cup fever with a parade that featured festive native garb, mariachi musicians and soccer players dribbling balls up a street lined with thousands of viewers in an eclectic mix of languages and cultures.

Lest Chicagoans forget about the American football that will remain when World Cup leaves, the grand marshal was former Bear star Walter Payton.

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Visions of the World Cup generating $4 billion in the United States are vanishing.

"I absolutely believed it was going to be the equivalent of nine Super Bowls--much bigger than the Olympics," said Bob Solomon, chairman and chief executive officer of Dakin Inc., a national purveyor of plush toys, key rings, figurines and mugs.

But while orders from big airports, duty-free shops and some hotels were encouraging, World Cup merchandise is in fewer than 5,000 stores nationwide, about 25% of the number of stores that carry "Flintstones" or "Jurassic Park" merchandise. The bottom line is sales of $5 million, one-fifth as much as during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

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The referee for Saturday's U.S.-Switzerland game at Pontiac, Mich., will be Francisco Lamolina of Argentina. Fabio Baldas of Italy will be the referee for the U.S.-Colombia game Wednesday at the Rose Bowl.

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A Belgian mainstay fell victim to the 95-degree heat of Orlando, Fla., where his team scored a 6-0 victory over the U.S. under-23 team.

Absent after halftime was midfielder Lorenzo Staelens, last season's most valuable player in the Belgian league, who remained in the locker room suffering from dizziness.

The Soccer Expert

Colombia's Express

Colombia is the clear favorite to win Group A, which includes the United States. With the wizardry of midfielder Carlos Valderrama, the scoring prowess of forward Faustino Asprilla and the goalkeeping of Oscar Cordoba, the team is considered capable of winning the title. Colombia lines up in what appears to be a 4-2-2-2 to take advantage of the talents of Valderrama and Asprilla.

Source: Times staff

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