World XI gala canceled
A World XI Players Awards gala scheduled for Athens next week has been called off with organizers pointing the finger of blame at two British companies. The event, backed by FIFPro, the international players' ruling body, was due to honor the 11 best soccer players in the world as voted by the 43,000 professional players from 40 national federations. But Monday's show was scrapped on Thursday when the two British firms involved in organizing the gala were unable to guarantee that all the award winners would turn up. Greek sports minister Stavros Douvis told Supersport radio: "The two companies, even though they had asked a lot of money which was not refused by both FIFPro and us, began telling us that they couldn't bring some of the 11 players invited."
Men held over stabbing
Chinese police have detained three men in connection with the near-fatal stabbing of Dalian Shide midfielder Quan Lei, local media reported yesterday. Quan, 21, was rushed to hospital last month after being stabbed at least 10 times in the northeastern city of Dalian by several men as he got out of his car on the way to a birthday party for his father. The newspaper did not say if the three had been charged. The Beijing News, citing a police statement from a press conference on Thursday, said the Super League player had been attacked because he had become "too intimate" with the girlfriend of a businessman. Quan's return to professional football depended on the nerves and tendons in his legs fully healing, the paper said citing staff at the Dalian hospital that treated him.
■ Horse Racing
NYRA files for bankruptcy
The New York Racing Association (NYRA), the private entity that has held the state horse racing franchise since 1955, filed for protection from creditors in bankruptcy court on Thursday. NYRA's hold on the state franchise to run racing is scheduled to end Dec. 31, next year. "Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not mean going out of business," said NYRA president Charles Hayward, who has headed a new management team after years of critical audits and investigations into spending and mismanagement. Hayward said filing for bankruptcy court protection was a "last option." On Monday, the state's racing board released the US$19 million to NYRA, but NYRA officials said on Thursday that it comes with too many restrictions.
■ New Zealand
Rugby league chief quits
New Zealand Rugby League chairman Selwyn Bennett resigned yesterday, accepting responsibility but refusing to admit fault over the selection of Australian Nathan Fien for the Kiwis' Tri-Nations squad. The executive committee of the Rugby League International Federation on Thursday stripped New Zealand of two competition points and banned Fien from the remainder of the Tri-Nations tournament when it found the Australian-born hooker was not eligible for the Kiwis as the New Zealand league had claimed. Bennett had put forward Fien's claim of eligibility, saying he qualified through a New Zealand-born grandmother. But checks by the international federation found his great-grandmother rather than his grandmother was New Zealand-born. Bennett said he accepted responsibility for Fien's selection and was resigning to avoid further criticism of New Zealand Rugby League officials.