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Virus Stirs World Cup Concerns

May 02, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Several of the top international players in the Women's United Soccer Assn. (WUSA) have expressed concerns about traveling to China for the fourth FIFA Women's World Cup in September because of the health dangers there caused by the SARS virus.

Players from the United States, Japan and Canada told Bloomberg News that they would be hesitant to travel to China for fear of being exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome.

"No soccer game is worth your life," U.S. defender Brandi Chastain said.

"It's not that I don't trust FIFA, but they don't know [the situation in China]," Japanese midfielder Homare Sawa said. "If they say go, I'll go, but I don't want to die."

Canadian forward Charmaine Hooper said of the scheduled Sept. 23-Oct. 11 world championship: "I assume they'll have to move it or postpone it. I can't see how they can have it in China."

The leaders of FIFA will meet in Switzerland this weekend, with one of the agenda items being a report from the FIFA medical committee on the threat posed by SARS. FIFA could postpone the women's tournament, move it elsewhere or delay action and await developments.

Meanwhile, Japan announced Thursday that Nigeria will take the place of Portugal in the three-nation Kirin Cup and will play Japan in Saitama on June 11 but will not play the tournament's other participant, Argentina. Portugal earlier canceled its planned tour of South Korea and Japan, citing concern over SARS.

Also, Turkmenistan Thursday forfeited its Olympic qualifying match to Malaysia when the government ordered the team not to travel to Kuala Lumpur for Saturday's scheduled game.

"We don't want to endanger the lives of our players," a Turkmenistan soccer federation official told Associated Press.

U.S. Tackles Kiwis

The U.S. and New Zealand men's national teams, both headed for the FIFA Confederations Cup in France next month, will play each other in Richmond, Va., on June 8 just before leaving for Europe.

The game will be only the second between the reigning champions of CONCACAF and Oceania. The countries previously met in the 1999 Confederations Cup in Mexico, with the U.S. scoring a 2-1 victory in Guadalajara.

In the June 18-29 tournament, the U.S. will play Brazil, Cameroon and Turkey in the first round. New Zealand, which features Galaxy midfielder Simon Elliott, will play Colombia, France and Japan.

MLS Update

The New York/New Jersey MetroStars have lost Bolivian international forward Jaime Moreno for three to six weeks because of a back injury.

Moreno, 29, lasted only 22 minutes before leaving the game when the MetroStars played the Columbus Crew last weekend, and tests later revealed "a small herniation of a disk" in his lower back, the MLS team said.

His absence will cause Coach Bob Bradley to move Clint Mathis into a forward role from his midfield position.

The Chicago Fire announced Thursday that it will play perennial Greek power Olympiakos on June 4 at the Fire's temporary home, Cardinal Stadium on the campus of North Central College in Naperville, Ill.

A Fine Mess

England's Football Assn. was fined a record $111,000 by UEFA because of the behavior of its fans during a 2004 European Championship qualifying match against Turkey in Sunderland on April 2, when fans invaded the field and also verbally abused and scuffled with Turkish fans. Ninety arrests were made in a postgame melee.

UEFA also fined Manchester United Coach Alex Ferguson $7,400 for making "improper statements to the media" suggesting that the draw for the European Champions Cup was rigged.

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