Popescu receives boost
Former star Gheorghe Popescu said on Wednesday he would try to clear his reputation after allegations that he was a spy for the Securitate secret police were dismissed by the council that holds communist-era files. The Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives said on Tuesday there is no evidence in the files that Popescu did anything that violated human rights and cleared him of collaborating with the Securitate. Last month, two newspapers alleged that notes in his file showed that Popescu was a Securitate informer. Popescu denied the allegations but later conceded he signed a document promising to “defend the national interests” and wrote notes providing information about teammates. He now says he does not remember signing the notes, although they appear under his name. Popescu said his file is largely made up of reports written by two Securitate agents who were keeping an eye on the players when they went abroad. He said the handwriting of one of the agents is similar to his, and implied the agent could have written the notes and signed them in his name.
Striker returns aged 46
Former Colombia striker Anthony de Avila is making a comeback with America de Cali at the age of 46 after a decade out of soccer, he announced on Wednesday. “My real motivation is to have a farewell match as an active player ... I didn’t get the chance then [10 years ago] but it’s working out now,” De Avila said he is fit and ready to play competitively. He played for Colombia at two World Cups.
Players punished for betting
Four players who bet on a League Two match involving their own clubs were banned for up to a year by the English FA on Wednesday. James Harris, Robert Williams and David Mannix, Accrington Stanley players at the time, and then Bury player Andrew Mangan were found to be in “blatant breach of the rules” by the FA regulatory commission after betting on Bury to win on May 3, last year, the FA said. Harris, who played in the match which Bury won 2-0, was suspended immediately from all soccer activities for one year, while Mannix and Williams were banned for 10 months and eight months respectively. Mangan was banned for five months. The players also received fines of between £2,000 and £5,000 (US$3,300-US$8,200).
Arrive late, leave early
Playing at altitude need not be banned provided teams arrive just before kickoff and leave immediately after, the head of research carried out in Bolivia said on Wednesday. “According to the studies were have completed, a period of acclimatization is unnecessary. There is no reason to prohibit football at altitude,” said Ivo Eterovic, head of the Bolivian Football Federation (FBF) medical commission. Opponents of soccer at high altitude argue that it gives teams accustomed to the rarefied air an unfair advantage and world body FIFA banned all matches at more than 2,750m above sea level in 2007. FIFA lifted the ban last year pending more research but is set to recommend that teams must only play at altitude after a two-week adaptation period, FBF sources said. Eterovic, however, said: “Arriving only a few hours before [the match], playing and leaving is the best thing so the altitude does not affect the players. Physiologically, the human body only starts responding [to the altitude] after the fourth or fifth hour,” he said. Bolivia play internationals in La Paz, 3,600m above sea level.