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Soccer Insider | THE GLOBAL GAME

Manchester United 'Expansion Plan' May Be Divisive

November 18, 1998|From From Staff and Wire Reports

The sale of Manchester United to Rupert Murdoch is not yet a reality, but already the English club is flexing its economic muscle in ways that have some soccer leaders concerned.

In its latest move, the club announced it has reached a cooperative agreement that would turn Belgium's oldest team, Royal Antwerp, into essentially a minor-league team where young talent will be groomed before eventually being shipped across the North Sea to the Premier League.

"We have to face reality," Royal Antwerp Secretary Paul Bistiaux told the Associated Press. "The smaller clubs have to align themselves with the big ones to survive. It's either sink or swim."

Not content with that addition, Manchester United plans similar feeder teams in other countries.

"This is just part of the expansion plan," Manchester United Coach Alex Ferguson said. There will be deals with clubs in Australia, Ireland and Sweden."

Already, reservations have been expressed by the Belgian soccer federation and others. "In principle, we don't like it," said a spokesman for UEFA, European soccer's governing body. "There might be more disadvantages than advantages to this."

FIFA has steadfastly rejected the common ownership of European clubs by one person or company and is watching Manchester United's move very closely.

"We have to wait and see what such cooperation entails," spokesman Keith Cooper said.

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Geoff Hurst, the only player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final, was knighted by England's Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday and from now on will be known as Sir Geoff. Hurst's three goals were scored in England's 4-2 overtime victory against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley Stadium in London.

WORLD TOUR

SCOTLAND: Collectors of soccer memorabilia with $25,000 or so to spare for a $90 item might want to attend next month's auction in Glasgow, where a particularly rare item will come under the hammer.

The ball that Emmanuel Petit slammed into Brazil's net to secure France's 3-0 World Cup victory at Stade de France on July 12 is to be auctioned on Dec. 10 by Christie's auction house. The ball is being put up for sale by the match referee, Said Belqola of Morocco.

BRAZIL: Defender Julio Cesar, 35, is leaving Botafogo to return to Germany, where he will rejoin Borussia Dortmund, the club he helped lead to the European Champions' Cup in 1996.

ITALY: Inter Milan striker and 1997 world player of the year Ronaldo appears unable to shake the after-effects of Brazil's World Cup loss to France and has missed six of the club's last nine games because of injury or unfitness. Ronaldo, 22, suffers from tendinitis in both knees.

"We have been off to an unlucky season start," Inter Milan Coach Gigi Simoni said. "But we must learn to live with injuries, and without Ronaldo. His absence must not be an alibi. We must win without him, while waiting for his comeback."

SPAIN: It took Celta Vigo a half-century to accomplish the feat, but the Galacian club finally managed to defeat Real Madrid at the latter's Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The 2-1 victory, during which Real Madrid and Croatia striker Davor Suker, the top goal scorer in World Cup '98, missed a penalty kick, gave Celta Vigo the Spanish League lead.

Meanwhile, another drought was broken when Espanyol defender Nando, a former star at Sevilla, Barcelona and Real Madrid, scored the first goal of his 12-year professional career.

It came in a 3-0 victory over Real Zaragoza and was Nando's first goal in 246 games.

GREECE: After coaching Romania to the World Cup in 1994 and 1998, Anghel Iordanescu resigned to become Greece's national team coach. But he appears ready to be ousted after only three games in charge--a tie with Slovenia, a victory over Georgia and today's game against Albania.

Iordanescu, who had a $320,000-a-year contract with the Greek soccer federation, has been offered, and reportedly will accept, a $534,000 salary to coach AEK Athens in the Greek League.

"In any case, the next national coach will be a Greek. We won't get another foreigner who will abandon us when a better offer comes up," one federation official said.

ARGENTINA: Boca Juniors forward Martin Palermo tied an Argentine league record by scoring his 16th goal of the season in the closing seconds to give the club a 2-1 victory over Talleres in the rain at sold-out La Bombonera ("Chocolate Box") stadium and keep it in first place in the league. Boca needs two wins and a tie in the season's final five games to clinch the championship.

POLAND: Not content with their club's one-year ban by UEFA, fans of Polish league-leader Wisla Krakow again are in trouble.

The ban came after one Wisla fan threw a knife at Parma's Dino Baggio during the teams' UEFA Cup game in Krakow last month. Baggio was struck on the head, but returned to the game after treatment.

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