Mon, Feb 23, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Sports Briefs

AGENCIES AND STAFF WRITER

■SOCCER

Man United bans autographs

Manchester United has banned its players from signing autographs for fans at the team’s training ground.

The decision was communicated to fans in the matchday program for Saturday’s 2-1 win over Blackburn. “I offer apologies to fans who come to the Carrington training ground looking for autographs, because we have had to ask players not to stop and sign your books,” United manager Alex Ferguson wrote. “The problem is that we have had too many opportunists selling on signed merchandise. They are not fans at all, and we have taken this action in order to stop the practice. We hope that you understand our decision.” Five years ago, United imposed a similar ban, which was primarily aimed at sports memorabilia dealers.

■SOCCER

Gunmen kill fans in Nigeria

Gunmen ambushed a busload of soccer fans travelling to a match in southern Nigeria on Saturday and killed at least six in an apparent revenge attack, police and local officials said. The supporters were travelling from Yenegoa in Bayelsa state to neighboring Delta state. Local officials said the execution-style killings appeared to be in retaliation for a nightclub shooting in Yenegoa on Friday. “The fans coming to Delta were ambushed and shot. Eight were killed and seven were injured and are in hospital,” Delta state police spokesman Charles Muka said. A senior Bayelsa state government official who visited the scene said he had seen six bodies being taken to the mortuary in the nearby town of Ughelli. Another local official put the death toll among the “Ocean Boys” soccer supporters at 13. Bayelsa and Delta are two of the main states in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta, where criminal gangs and militant groups regularly ambush vehicles and carry out kidnappings. The government official said the killings appeared to be part of a feud between rival “cults,” a word often used in Nigeria to refer to university campus gangs originally sponsored by politicians to commit abuses at election time.

■CRICKET

Helicopter halts play

A helicopter stopped play in a domestic cricket game in India after the pilot mistook the pitch for a landing pad, local media reported yesterday. Players were forced to abort Saturday’s one-day game and scurry for cover when the hapless pilot set the chopper down on the letter ‘H’ painted in the corner of the cricket ground. The ‘H’ stands for the name of the Himachal Pradesh team in the north-west Indian state. A fire near the stadium also added to the confusion of the pilot, who misinterpreted it for smoke signals, the Hindustan Times said. The unscheduled arrival of the helicopter, owned by a private airline, halted play for almost half an hour before the red-faced pilot buzzed off again. “It landed suddenly. No one knew what was happening,” the competing Punjab team manager told the paper after his side won the interrupted game. “There was chaos. Everyone ran for cover.”

■CRICKET

Contract blow for cursing Nel

Controversial pace bowler Andre Nel has missed out on a national contract by Cricket South Africa, the national governing body said on Saturday. Nel, 31, is currently suspended after two separate swearing incidents. During 2003 he was sent home from a South Africa A tour of Australia after a drunk driving incident. Later in the year during a tour of the West Indies he was found guilty of smoking marijuana. He has played 36 Tests and 70 one-day internationals.

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