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SOCCER INSIDER | THE GLOBAL GAME

Berlin Stadium to Get Face Lift for World Cup Bid

November 25, 1998| From Staff and Wire Reports

Berlin's Olympic Stadium, built by Adolf Hitler's Nazis for the 1936 Olympic Games, is scheduled to undergo a major overhaul in time for Germany's bid to stage the 2006 World Cup.

Cost for renovating the aging stadium, a listed historical monument notoriously linked to Hitler's Third Reich and immortalized in German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl's 11-hour epic of the 1936 Olympics, is expected to exceed $325 million.

Berlin's cash-strapped city-state authorities and the federal government in Bonn have each pledged $60 million toward reconstruction.

The project had been dogged by delays as Berlin and Bonn fought over the future of the decrepit stadium, now home to Hertha Berlin.

The Bundesliga team is expected to continue playing there during reconstruction, which will begin in 2000.

The stadium has been in regular use as a sports venue since World War II and was the arena chosen for a mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II for 100,000 people during his visit to Berlin two years ago. In 1990, it was the site of a Rolling Stones concert.

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Erich Ribbeck, Germany's national team coach, wants the German first division reduced from 18 clubs to 16 to give players more time for international play.

"It would be ideal if we had two clubs less in the Bundesliga," Ribbeck told the weekly Sport Bild. "That way, the players would be more available."

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Franz Beckenbauer has been voted the greatest German player of the century. The one-time New York Cosmos defender came out on top in a vote by soccer journalists and experts taken by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Beckenbauer beat striker Gerd Mueller, his teammate on the 1974 World Cup-winning team, into second place. Fritz Walter, who captained Germany to victory in the 1954 World Cup, finished third.

Beckenbauer is one of seven players nominated for the European-player-of-the-century award, which will be presented at the IFFHS gala in January at Rotenburg, Germany.

The six others are England's Bobby Charlton, the Netherlands' Johan Cruyff, Argentine-born Spaniard Alfredo di Stefano, Portugal's Eusebio, Hungary's Ferenc Puskas and France's Michel Platini.

WORLD TOUR

SPAIN: Barcelona has announced plans for a new commercial center devoted to its soccer club, FC Barcelona, and linked to its Nou Camp stadium by monorail. Josep Lluis Nunez, the club's president, signed an agreement with city officials to go ahead with the "Barca 2000" project, which is expected to cost $264 million. The commercial area will include cinemas, restaurants and three museums: one devoted to FC Barcelona, another to the Olympics and the third to Catalonian sport. The projected completion date is 2001.

NETHERLANDS: PSV Eindhoven, which has 24,000 season-ticket holders, will expand the capacity of its Philips stadium by 10,000 seats to 40,000 for the European Championship in 2000. Construction will begin in March and will be completed by August for the start of the 1999-2000 season.

BRAZIL: Fielding an experimental lineup, Brazil routed depleted, jet-lagged, heat-sapped Russia, 5-1, in Fortaleza, Brazil, in its third match under Coach Vanderley Luxemburgo. The result was of questionable importance, since Russia had only home-based players in what was effectively a B team, faced a six-hour time difference and a temperature change of 40 degrees, and took the field 24 hours after completing a 30-hour trip from Moscow. Italian-based striker Amoroso of Udinese scored twice, with Elber, Rivaldo, one of three survivors from the 1998 World Cup team on the field, and Marcos Assuncao each adding a goal for Brazil.

EGYPT: A header by Tore Andre Flo earned Norway a 1-1 tie with Egypt in Cairo. The African champions were on the attack throughout the first half and Hossam Hassan put them ahead five minutes before halftime. Norway hit back with a header by Flo in the 63rd minute.

AUSTRALIA: FIFA has decided not to relax the 23-year age limit for soccer players at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, despite attempts by the International Olympic Committee to open the tournament to all players. FIFA reaffirmed the current rules under which teams in Olympic competition can field only three players older than 23. The rules are intended to guard the supremacy of the World Cup.

IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch has pushed for a higher-level Olympic soccer tournament and expressed hope the restrictions could be dropped altogether.

His FIFA counterpart, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, has said he wants soccer "given greater prominence" in the Olympic Games.

Sixteen men's and eight women's teams will take part in the 2000 tournament, which will be staged in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. The men's final will be played Sept. 30, 2000, in Sydney's new Olympic Stadium, FIFA said.

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