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No One Doubts the Rising Clout of Rothenberg

SOCCER

November 01, 1999|GRAHAME L. JONES

Five years after the 1994 World Cup, Alan Rothenberg still is reaping the rewards.

Besides the financial windfall the hugely successful tournament netted the Brentwood attorney, it also solidified his position among the movers and shakers of FIFA, world soccer's governing body.

Rothenberg is now one of them.

Any arguments to the contrary have been dispelled in the last couple of weeks while Rothenberg has toured Germany and England at the head of a six-man delegation of FIFA figures assessing each nation's worthiness to host the World Cup in 2006.

Still to come are similar five-day visits to Brazil, Morocco and South Africa, where the welcomes are expected to be equally lavish. It's going to be tough to top the English, however. Consider:

The delegation met Prime Minister Tony Blair and was taken by helicopters of the Royal Squadron to Wembley, landing on the pitch of soccer's spiritual home.

Rothenberg, true to form, dodged questions about Wembley's famed twin towers, which, amid much controversy, are set to be demolished next year when England begins construction of a $512-million, 90,000-seat stadium it hopes will be the showpiece of the 2006 World Cup.

"I looked through the FIFA list of requirements and [preserving the historic twin towers] wasn't required," he said.

The delegation also visited a few expensively refurbished Premier League stadiums.

"The stadiums were outstanding and the new Wembley will be a magnificent facility," Rothenberg said, adding that the delegation had been "as much impressed with the older stadiums that had been renovated without destroying their great traditions."

Then there were the so-called gala banquets, including one at Hampton Court Palace, where the guests included England's coach, Kevin Keegan, and former England striker Gary Lineker and actor Hugh Grant.

"We are not decision makers," Rothenberg said at a news conference closing the FIFA party's visit, "but I can assume we have some influence [on the FIFA executive committee, which will select the World Cup 2006 host next July]. England has all the elements of a successful bid."

Rothenberg, who earlier had described Germany's bid as "outstanding," shrugged off all the attention foisted on the delegation.

"I don't think the entertainment was lavish," he said. "We had to fit a lot of engagements into a small space of time, and helicopters and planes were the best way to do this. We stayed in some nice hotels, but a bed is a bed."

Indeed. And having made his own so well, Rothenberg is enjoying it to the fullest.

FIRST MOROCCO, THEN CHILE

The U.S. men's national team, 7-3-2 in 1999, with two victories over Germany, another over Argentina and a commendable third-place finish in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico, is taking to the road one last time this year.

U.S. Soccer announced that Coach Bruce Arena's squad will travel to Morocco next month and play the North African nation in either Casablanca or Rabat on Nov. 17.

Morocco is preparing for the 2000 African Nations Cup, to be played at the end of January in Nigeria and Ghana. The last time the countries met, in 1992 in Casablanca, Morocco won, 3-1.

U.S. Soccer also announced that the national team will travel to South America to play Chile on Jan. 29 at a site to be determined. Arena will use the game as a final tuneup for Gold Cup 2000.

The U.S. team will play Haiti on Feb. 12, and Peru on Feb. 16 in Miami, in the first round of the 12-nation tournament.

Mexico, the reigning champion, will play Trinidad & Tobago on Feb. 13 in San Diego, and Guatemala on Feb. 17 in Los Angeles in the first round.

Other first-round groups will match Colombia, Honduras and Jamaica; and Canada, Costa Rica and South Korea.

Look for Mexico, under Coach Manuel Lapuente, to again reach the final at the Los Angeles Coliseum Feb. 27. The U.S. team's chances are more problematic since it is in the more difficult half of the draw.

CALIFORNIA KIDS

Coach John Ellinger has named the 18-player U.S. squad he will take to New Zealand on Wednesday for the FIFA under-17 World Championship.

Included are six players from California: goalkeepers Delvin Countess and Steve Cronin of Sacramento; midfielders Adolfo Gregorio of Hilmar and Bryan Jackson of La Canada; and forwards Landon Donovan of Redlands and Raul Palomares of Inglewood.

Also featured is midfielder DaMarcus Beasley of Indiana, signed earlier this season by the Galaxy.

The U-17 team is on a 20-game unbeaten run (16-0-4), the longest such streak in the history of any U.S. men's national team. The players, who have been in residency camp in Florida since January, will spend Tuesday at Disneyland before flying to Auckland for the tournament Nov. 10-27.

A send-off party has been organized at 11 a.m. at the Air New Zealand terminal.

SNOW BUSINESS

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