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Sanchez Is Short on Diplomacy

March 09, 2003|GRAHAME L. JONES

Aging Mexican dentist Hugo Sanchez has opened his mouth wide once again and, as usual, has stuck both feet inside.

The former idol of Real Madrid and Mexico's national team -- not to mention the San Diego Sockers at a time when he had not yet soured on the United States -- is a coach these days.

At least, that's what Sanchez, 44, says, although it's difficult to tell by the way his UNAM Pumas are playing.

Be that as it may, Sanchez still spouts opinions that demonstrate why he is far from being the most popular figure on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border. He was at it again last week, this time in an interview with Reuters.

Mexico's schedule is greed-driven, according to Sanchez.

U.S. referees are no good, according to Sanchez.

Other national teams in CONCACAF are worthless, according to Sanchez.

Mexico's soccer federation recently revealed that its national team -- guided by the kindly hand of the Anschutz Entertainment Group and the AEG agenda -- will play more than 40 games in the United States over the next three or four years.

Sanchez said it should not play any.

"Mexico is one of the few teams in the world that doesn't play in its country," he said. "The problem is that [Mexican federation leaders] have invested a lot of money to sell the image of the national team, and they have to get this money back.

"So they send the team to play in the United States, but in doing so they risk the physical integrity of the players. All the matches played there are, by [contractual] obligation, refereed by officials from the United States, and the United States referees are not good.

"They are at a lower level and they allow a lot of violent tackles.... [Federation leaders] don't care about the physical integrity of the players because they want to get their money back."

Sanchez added that he would prefer Mexico avoided playing CONCACAF-area teams entirely. "The competition around Mexico is of a very low level," he said. "If [the national team] were based in Mexico or South America, we would not have this problem.

"Unfortunately, to play against the United States, against Canada, against Haiti, against El Salvador or against Guatemala doesn't help us get better."

Sanchez earned his dental degree many years ago. Apparently, the diploma did not guarantee diplomacy.

Nigerian No Go

Sanchez is not alone in talking before thinking. Abdulkadir Kure, governor of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim state of Niger, does it as well.

Kure told Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper last week that regardless of the country's place at the forefront of women's soccer in Africa, he would not permit state funds or facilities to be used to help develop the women's game.

"It's not in conformity with our culture," Kure told an audience of soccer officials. "If any official uses government money to sponsor female soccer, you will account for it. It is a no-go area."

Just as Nigeria, because it tolerates Kure's views, should be a no-go area when it comes to serving as host for the 2010 World Cup, or any other FIFA event for that matter.

Simply Stupidity

Then there is the absurd case of bureaucratic folly known as Spain's Anti-Violence Commission, a twisted offshoot of the country's Higher Sports Council (as opposed, no doubt, to its Lower Sports Council).

The commission is pondering whether to take action against Brazilian World Cup winner Denilson of Real Betis, who, in a moment of hyperbole before a recent game against cross-town rival Sevilla said, "We have to die, we have to kill them and massacre them, but in the sporting sense of the word."

Commission members believe he should be charged with inciting violence, a stance that has left Denilson agog.

"It sounds like a joke," he told the Spanish sports daily Marca. "With all the important things they have to deal with, and they start worrying about this?"

Bonnie for Clyde

Diego Maradona was once a useful player. The son that he continues to deny is his -- despite DNA tests and an Italian court ruling that long ago proved otherwise -- might one day be a useful player.

Which is why Alan Kernaghan, coach of the Scottish first division team Clyde, is considering an offer from Italy's Serie B team Napoli to take 16-year-old Diego Jr. on loan.

But Kernaghan is being understandably wary.

"He's bound to have some of his dad's genes, but I would have to find out more about him first," said Kernaghan, a former Irish international. "We would have to look at the football side of it first and foremost to see if he's good enough to offer us something we don't have."

A goalkeeper, perhaps. Maybe Diego Jr., like his father, is good with his hands.

Poor, Poor Ollie

Finally, there is the pathetic story of Oliver Kahn, the Bayern Munich and German national team goalkeeper who was selected the most valuable player at the 2002 World Cup and who last week admitted to an affair with a Munich barmaid, even though his wife is expecting their second child any day.

The German media have covered the story with gusto. More than is necessary, according to Bayern Munich Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

"Ollie is being treated almost like a hardened criminal," Hitzfeld said.

Uli Hoeness, the club's commercial manager and a former international player, went even further.

"This 'holier-than-thou' attitude that is the apparent justification for the media for this unprecedented disgrace makes me want to vomit," he said.

"We have other problems in our society to worry about. People sitting in Baghdad and wondering when the first bombs are going to hit have a problem. But what happened to Oliver Kahn is not a problem.

"Is it really necessary that five camera teams are waiting every morning in front of the hospital where his wife is staying? Cameras in front of his house, cameras at training day and night, photographers chasing our cars. Do we need this voyeurism?"

They don't call Bayern Munich FC Hollywood for nothing.

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