■ The Netherlands
Gay referee dies
Referee John Blankenstein, who stunned soccer when he announced he was a homosexual, died in hospital on Friday aged 57, the ANP news agency reported. Blankenstein officiated at numerous top games but many in the sport believe that the announcement he was gay could have cost him the chance to take charge of the 1990 World Cup final in Italy. He campaigned widely for the rights of homosexuals and after his career served on many sports and cultural committees.
Reading signs De La Cruz
Reading completed the signing of Ecuador's World Cup defender Ulises De La Cruz on Friday on a one-year deal, the Premiership club announced. The 32-year-old right-back, who left Aston Villa at the end of last season, has been training with Reading for a week but was not fit enough to feature in today's game against Wigan. De La Cruz played 99 games for Villa in a four-year stint at the Midlands club.
FIFA fines federation
The Togolese football association has been fined 100,000 Swiss francs (US$80,000) for bringing the World Cup tournament into disrepute. Togo's players threatened to go on strike before their World Cup match against Switzerland on June 19, over a bonus dispute with their federation. FIFA issued a statement Friday stating that the fine was due to the Togolese players' threat to boycott that match. "The [disciplinary] commission has adjudged this affair to be particularly serious because since the arrival of the Togo federation in Germany at the end of May, its internal quarrels made the front pages of newspapers, behavior not befitting a World Cup participant and which put the smooth running of the tournament at risk."
Police caution Celtic star
Celtic's Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc was cautioned by police on Friday after blessing himself during a highly sectarian charged Old Firm match against city rivals Rangers. Fans watching the game at Ibrox on Feb. 12 complained that Boruc crossed himself at the start of the second half. As an alternative to prosecution, the Pole has been cautioned, leaving him with a criminal record. But the decision to investigate the incident caused anger in the Catholic Church in Scotland. "It's a worrying and alarming development, especially since the sign of the cross is globally accepted as a gesture of religious reverence," said Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church. Stephen Smith, spokesman for the Rangers Supporters Trust, said: "Professional footballers are meant to set an example. He was deliberately provocative and it was completely done to wind up the fans, as if the fixture isn't volatile enough."
Dispute halts matches
The Portuguese Professional Football League suspended all weekend matches involving Belenenses, Gil Vicente and Leixoes on Friday because of a relegation dispute. The decision came after Leixoes lodged an appeal against the league's decision to demote Gil Vicente, because the club broke rules governing the mid-season registration of a player, and replace the club with Belenenses. Leixoes, which finished third in the second division last season, argued it should have been promoted to the first division instead of Belenenses, who were relegated from the premier league last season.