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Conflict beween FIFA, Germany is aired as World Cup nears.

GENEVA (Wednesday, March 8, 2006) -- The World Cup is rapidly approaching, and world governing body FIFA and the German Organizing Committee are beginning to have sharp, public differences.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has criticized the way tickets have been sold for the World Cup, which will be played in 12 cities in Germany, saying the hosts still had to prove they could hold a successful competition.

"In Germany, they'll have to make an effort if they want to repeat what happened in South Korea in 2002 or France in 1998," Blatter told NZZ am Sonntag, a newspaper in Switzerland. "They'll first have to prove that the World Cup will be as good as the expectations."

Blatter said many meetings with the German Football Association (DFB) officials did not allay his concerns about the lottery system used to disperse tickets.

"It would probably have been better if we had taken over the ticket sales ourselves," Blatter said in the newspaper. "The Germans chose a system that I really don't understand."

Blatter, who also expressed concern about a large and expensive black market for tickets, particularly on the Internet, indicated FIFA will handle ticketing for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Accoring to Agence France-Presse, German officials said 84 percent of the 2.6 match tickets had already been sold with demand far exceeding supply.

In the NZZ am Sonntag story, Blatter rejected widespread criticism in Germany over the strict rules governing food and drink at World Cup stadiums.

The German media has been vocal in its criticism of the fact that Budweiser, a major sponsor that having paid FIFA millions of dollars for exclusive rights, will be the only beer served at Cup games and events. This policy is seen as an insult by many Germans who pride themselves on the quality of the nation's beer.

FIFA has placed strict limits on the presence of non-sponsors at the 12 Cup venues.

"I need to be clear about this once and for all -- the World Cup does not belong to Germany, this is not a German World Cup," he said. "It is a FIFA World Cup in Germany that cost us $758.7 million. It was on the basis of these ground rules that Germany was given the World Cup. They approved them, not only the German Football Association, but also the government."

Blatter supports national federation reimbursing clubs

ZURICH -- Opening potentially a huge can of worms, FIFA head Sepp Blatter is now taking the position that clubs should be paid by national federations when they release players for international duty with national teams.

"My opinion is that clubs deserve a minimum of respect for releasing players and they should be paid from the allocation," he told a press conference. "National associations should not only pay their players, but think about the clubs."

Blatter pointed out that FIFA will allocate $5.4 million to every one of the 32 finalists in the 2006 World Cup, with advancing teams being paid increasingly more with the champion picking up an additional $18.5 million. He said some of that revenue should be shared with the club teams from which the players come.

According to Blatter, the FIFA executive committee will discuss the subject in a meeting March 17-18.

FIFA and Blatter have been sued by a French team for damages when a player released for a friendly was injured. French champion Lyon and Charleroi of Belgium, backed by the G14 group of the biggest and most elite European clubs, have already started court proceedings against FIFA. The G14 group wants FIFA to provide insurance and compensation to clubs for players who are injured while representing their countries.

Asked if the French federation would have to pay Chelsea of England for players released for the World Cup, Blatter replied: "Yes, if the principle is established."

Some national federations already pay for their players to be released for international duty. German clubs receive $7,155 per player from the Germany's DFB, but poorer federations, particularly in Latin America and Africa, cannot afford it.

Blatter balked at the idea of African countries paying rich European clubs like the English champions. "You can't ask Ivory Coast to pay Chelsea for (Didier) Drogba," he said. "That would be turning the world on its head -- the rich would get richer and the poor poorer. Each case would to be examined individually."

Klinsmann summoned by German Parliament

BERLIN -- Germany manager Juergen Klinsmann's presence was demanded by members of Parliament after the national team was embarrassed 4-1 by Italy last week. Members of the governmental body from the ruling Christian Democrats and Social Democrat parties was Klinsmann summoned before a parliamentary committee to answer questions about his team's fitness for the World Cup.

"It would be good if Herr Klinsmann would come before the sport committee and explain what his concept is and how Germany can win the World Cup," said Norbert Barthle, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party. "The match against Italy was gruesome and we wonder (if it) can be fixed by the summer. The federal government is the biggest sponsor of the World Cup. In light of that, I'd like to get a few answers from him."

Miriam Gruss, a member of the opposition Free Democrats on the panel, also demanded answers from Klinsmann. "The World Cup is of national interest," she said. "He should stop experimenting and inform the sport committee of his plans. It's not just a question of whether a team plays poorly. It's the larger question: How is the team presenting itself?"

Fortunately for manager Bruce Arena, the United States Congress seems to have its hands full lately, so he needn't worry about being called to Capitol Hill to explain any losses, should they come.

Israeli record set with 34 penalty kicks in shootout

TEL AVIV -- A national record believed to be set when 34 penalty kicks were needed in a tiebreaker in which Maccabi Petah Tikva of the Premier League edged the second division's Maccabi Herzliya 13-12 in an Israeli State Cup game.

Players from both teams combined to miss nine times with Herzliya goalkeeper Shaul Smadja failing twice in the shootout.

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