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SOCCER GRAHAME L. JONES

World Cup Is Serving Milutinovic Well ... Again

July 21, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES

Gleanings from the world of the spinning ball, a mix of good news, bad news and just plain weird news. Take your pick....

Bora for the Birds

No matter where he goes, Bora Milutinovic finds a way to get quoted.

The former coach of Mexico, Costa Rica, the United States, Nigeria and China was in Tibet recently on a post-World Cup holiday with his wife and daughter.

"For me, to be able to see Tibet with my own eyes makes me very happy," Milutinovic told China's Xinhua news agency.

"Lhasa is beautiful. Everything about Tibet left a very good impression on me, especially the Tibetan people."

And there was a typical Bora postscript to the visit.

"Just before I leave this world, I will come back to Tibet for a sky burial," he said, referring to the traditional Tibetan practice of leaving corpses for birds of prey to pick clean.

Presently, Bora has been cleaning up. The Asian Wall Street Journal reported during the World Cup that Milu, as he is known to the Chinese, had "become the king of celebrity endorsements in China, extolling the virtues of health drinks, air conditioners, digital recorders, and a fiery rice liquor, and recently licensed his name to launch his own line of sports clothing."

China went winless in its first World Cup, but Bora did very well in his fifth.

The Illuminated Phenomenon

Nezio Nascimento--no relation to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele--has a plan for next year's carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Nascimento is president of Tradicao, one of Brazil's top samba groups, and the group plans to honor Brazil's World Cup victory, and Ronaldo's role in particular, at the carnival.

The theme for Tradicao's costumed dancers will be "Brazil is five-time champion; R is 9--the illuminated phenomenon," Nascimento said.

Ronaldo was once nicknamed "the Phenomenon," but is now more popularly known as R9, for his name and jersey number.

No Pay, No Play

Vampeta, Ronaldo's teammate on Brazil's World Cup-winning team, has voiced what must be an early candidate for soccer quote of the year.

The midfielder said he had deliberately played poorly last season for Flamengo because he was not being paid by Edmundo Santos Silva, the recently ousted president of the famous but financially struggling club.

"The Flamengo president pretended to pay me and I pretended to play," Vampeta said.

Faster and Faster

Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese coach who netted a tidy sum from U.S. Soccer a few years ago for drafting the federation's blueprint for the future, will have a more difficult time improving Manchester United than he would have had in improving the American players, had he become U.S. coach.

Queiroz, 49, is now assistant and heir apparent to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

"When you have a sprinter who can reach 100 meters in 12 seconds, it is easier to make an impact on his times," Queiroz told the Manchester Evening News. "To bring a sprinter down from 12 seconds to 10.1 or something like that is achievable and can be done a lot quicker.

"However, when you have a sprinter who can do 9.9 seconds, then to make him run 9.7 sometimes you can spend your whole life doing it, but it can be done. Manchester United is the sprinter who has achieved 9.9 seconds. At this club it is not easy to be better and better and better.

"The magic here is to make things more perfect."

Final Flight

Even today, more than four decades after it was written, "The Day a Team Died" remains compelling reading for soccer fans, telling the story of the 1958 airline crash in Munich, Germany, in which 23 people were killed, including eight Manchester United players.

The team was on its way home from a game against Red Star Belgrade and the plane crashed on take-off after stopping to refuel in Munich.

One of those who was badly injured in the crash but survived was journalist Frank Taylor, who wrote the definitive book about the ordeal.

Taylor died last week at age 81, and Manchester United, to its credit, made note of his passing.

Ugly Italians

Now that Giovanni Trapattoni has been told he will remain Italy's coach through the 2004 European Championship in Portugal, one of the first things he is likely to do is sit down with striker Christian Vieri and figure out what's bugging him.

Vieri, who needs only one goal in 2006 to become Italy's all-time leading goal scorer at the World Cup, blasted his countrymen a few days ago.

"Today in Italy we play badly, we produce ugly football," the Inter Milan forward told Gazzetta Dello Sport. "The Spanish and English championships are more entertaining, more spectacular. Our football is behind in respect to the others."

Trapattoni's World Cup team was too cautious, he said, and lacked self-belief.

"Have you heard what Ronaldo said?" he asked.

" 'We play with three or four attackers because we are Brazil. It is the others who should be worried about us.'

"I would like to be able to say the same--'We are Italy.' If you think about the other teams, you are not strong."

The Saga Continues

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