Team mafia-owned: minister
Togo’s sports minister said on Wednesday the fake national team that played Bahrain last week was made up of “unidentified players and their shadowy handlers” who belonged to a “mafia group.” Christophe Tchao said the team, which lost 3-0 at Bahrain’s National Stadium in Riffa on Sept. 7, did not have the necessary authorization from his ministry to represent the country in an international friendly. Tchao said a mafia group “aided and abetted them to leave Togo without authorization.” A former Togo soccer official said his signature was forged in the Aug. 17 letter to the Bahrain Football Association that set up the match. Kodzo Samlan said he left the federation in May, “so I could not have written that letter.”
Unions confirm HK match
The Australian and New Zealand rugby unions have confirmed the Oct. 30 Bledisloe Cup rugby match between the All Blacks and Wallabies will be played in Hong Kong as planned. In a joint statement released yesterday, chief executives Steve Tew of New Zealand and John O’Neill of Australia said 14,000 tickets have been sold for the match, which the teams will play en route to their tours of Britain. Recent reports suggested the match might be moved from Hong Kong because of slow ticket sales, but the chief executives said their unions remained committed to taking the match to Asia.
Grant puts holy day first
West Ham manager Avram Grant will miss his struggling side’s Premier League match away to Stoke City tomorrow so he can observe the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, the club said on Wednesday. In a statement, West Ham said: “Out of respect for the traditions, heritage and religious obligations of the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, Avram Grant will not be in the dug-out at Stoke City this Saturday. Dating back thousands of years, Yom Kippur — or Day of Atonement — is the most significant day of the [Jewish] year. It is a strict day of fasting and abstaining that forbids all followers to work. West Ham United fully respect and understand the situation. It is very unusual for the day to clash with the fixture list.” The Hammers statement added Grant would prepare and pick the side, but that assistant manager Zeljko Petrovic, senior coach Paul Groves and first-team coach Kevin Keen would be on the bench at the Britannia Stadium. Grant’s fellow Israeli and West Ham defender Tal Ben Haim could also be ruled out for similar religious reasons if he too observes the 25 hours of fasting and prayer, which start today.