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SOCCER GRAHAME L. JONES

Stamp of Disapproval for Italy

April 08, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES

Bits and pieces picked up along the road to Korea/Japan '02....

The year was 1934 and at the World Cup final in Rome things looked bleak for Italy, trailing Czechoslovakia, 1-0, with only about eight minutes remaining.

That's when Italy's Raimondo Orsi took the ball and set off on a run, weaving his way through the defense, faking a shot with his left foot and hitting the ball with his right.

Somehow, Orsi struck the ball in such a way that it swerved erratically, beat the goalkeeper, tied the score and sent the game into overtime.

Final score: Italy 2, Czechoslovakia 1.

You'd think something such as that would be remembered. Especially in the Republic of San Marino, which is, after all, surrounded by Italy. But no.

The world's smallest republic recently issued a set of six commemorative stamps honoring three-time world champion Italy's accomplishments in the World Cup. One stamp showed the 1934 score as 4-2 in Italy's favor. Another, celebrating Italy's 1938 victory, said Italy had beaten Hungary, 1-0, in the final in Paris. The actual score was 4-2.

The erroneous stamps won't be recalled. Unfortunately, 130,000 of them were produced, so they won't be of much value to collectors other than as a curiosity.

Spiderman or Dragnet

Belgian, Italian, Mexican and Tunisian hooligans, beware. Spiderman awaits you in Oita.

Police in the Japanese city have come up with a novel way of apprehending those who cause trouble at the World Cup. It's a device that looks like a rifle but fires a reinforced nylon net over a distance of five yards or so, entangling those caught beneath it.

"It's a bit like casting a fishing net," a police spokesman told Reuters. "Anyone caught in it will not be able to get out."

Oita, on the southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu, is where Belgium plays Tunisia on June 10, and where Italy plays Mexico on June 13.

The Devil, You Say

Religious groups in South Korea, where a quarter of the population is Christian, have been rebuffed in their attempts to get Belgium to change the nickname of its team.

"Devils are the enemies of Christians," one religious leader told the Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique, complaining that by calling themselves the "Red Devils," Belgium's players are sending the wrong message.

"We've had the name for about 70 years and until now no one has complained," said Nicolas Cornu, a Belgian soccer federation spokesman. "I think we'll be sticking to it."

It all makes one wonder how the good folks of Korea regard Manchester United, whose players not only are known as "Red Devils" but wear a devil logo on their jerseys. Then there's D.C. United's Marco "El Diablo" Etcheverry. Is he unwelcome in Korea too?

Nabbed in Shenzhen

Even with Bora Milutinovic as coach, China has little chance of winning the World Cup.

Not to worry. If they can't win any trophies, the Chinese sure know how to make them.

Acting on complaints from FIFA, authorities in the southern city of Shenzhen last week seized 60 fake World Cup trophies.

It wasn't difficult to tell them from the real thing, however, the China Daily reported. Each of the forged ones had "FIFA World Cup" emblazoned in one spot, which is fine, but they also carried the words: "Everlasting Memory of 2002 World Cup."

Sabotage

Nigeria's soccer leaders are never happier than when they are embroiled in some sort of fracas, no matter how ludicrous. And when they are, the stories that come out of Lagos are, well, unbelievable.

Last week provided a good example.

Edozie Enemuo, the marketing chief of the Nigerian soccer federation, claimed, without offering any proof, that persons unknown are trying to "sabotage" Nigeria's schedule of warmup games.

"The fraud by this faceless, shameless group," he told Agence France-Presse, is ruining Nigeria's buildup by causing hoped-for opponents to cancel warmup games.

"Some people are only out to sabotage Nigeria," he said. "It is as simple as that."

No, it isn't. Nigeria will play Argentina, England and Sweden in the World Cup's "group of death," and apparently the Nigerian federation is preparing its excuses early.

Get Real

Al-Saadi Kadafi is the son of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi. As such, his comments that Libya wants to stage the World Cup in 2010 should first be listened to, then laughed at.

Not that the younger Kadafi hasn't thought up a unique campaign. "We do not have any diseases here, unlike in other African states," he told Italy's Corriere dello Sport. "And security is of the highest level. In summary, whoever comes here can be more than calm."

But less than sane.

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