Sat, Nov 19, 2005 - Page 18 News List

Violence starts to tarnish World Cup

AP , LONDON

Phillipe Senderos, right, and Velon Behrami of Switzerland, and Tuncay Sanli, rear, and Tumer Metin of Turkey, fight for the ball during the World Cup second-leg qualifier at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: EPA

With the field for next year's World Cup in Germany now complete, fans should be looking ahead to the game's biggest party. Instead, the sport's image is under a cloud again.

On the field, violence broke out in Istanbul, Turkey, and Manama, Bahrain, on Wednesday night in final World Cup qualifiers.

Off the pitch, a referee was sentenced to two years and five months in jail Thursday for fixing matches in Germany -- which will host the championship in seven months.

FIFA opened an investigation into the scenes at Fenerbahce's Sukru Saracoglu stadium, where Switzerland qualified at the expense of Turkey.

Swiss players, running off the field to escape being hit by objects thrown by local fans, fought with Turkish players in the tunnel. Swiss substitute Stephane Grichting was taken to a hospital with internal bleeding.

"In the truest sense of the word, fair play was trampled underfoot," Blatter said at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. "This is unworthy of football. Football should promote understanding among peoples. This didn't happen here."

Although Switzerland lost the game 4-2, the team advanced on away goals after the two-leg series finished 4-4 on aggregate.

Blatter, who appeared to blame Turkey for the trouble, said FIFA might even consider banning the team from the 2010 World Cup.

"We will act tough," he said. "The catalogue of sanctions extends from a simple warning to suspension of the federation, which could mean exclusion from the next international event."

The Turkish federation responded by saying that Blatter, who is Swiss, was biased and had ignored the behavior of the Swiss players, one of whom kicked one of the Turkey coaches as he left the field.

"Blatter's comments were extremely unfortunate," Turkish soccer federation vice president Sekip Mosturoglu said. "This was not a one-sided event."

The Swiss players condemned the behavior of the Turkish players and their fans.

"What happened afterward is a scandal," said Marco Streller, who scored Switzerland's second goal. "Everyone had to run for his life. Security guards and Turkish players attacked us. One even kicked Beni Huggel in the head."

The scenes in Istanbul came hours after trouble on the field in Manama.

Trailing 1-0, Bahrain player Hussain Ali kicked the ball away from Trinidad goalkeeper Kelvin Jack as he was trying to send it downfield. Ali then put the ball in the net, but it was disallowed as Jack was still in his area.

Bahrain players, furious that the goal didn't count, surrounded the referee and began pushing and shoving their opponents. Trinidad held on to win the game 1-0 to advance to the World Cup finals for the first time.

With its hopes of a first World Cup appearance dashed, Bahrain on Thursday issued a complaint to FIFA, arguing the goal should have counted.

"We hope that FIFA will take action. It's up to them," said Sheik Ali Al Khalifa, vice-president of the Bahrain Football Association. "I'm not optimistic that we'll get a result."

Bahrain only made it to the playoffs thanks to FIFA.

It lost the first leg of its matchup with Uzbekistan 1-0 but FIFA ordered the game to be replayed because of a blunder by the referee. Uzbekistan converted a penalty but the official ruled it out because an attacking player had encroached inside the area before it had been taken. Instead of ordering it to be retaken, he mistakenly gave Bahrain a free kick.

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