Europe Pans World Club Tournament

Times Staff Writer

Any chance that existed for the FIFA World Club Championship being brought back to life took a sharp downturn Thursday when Europe's leading clubs said they are strongly opposed to the tournament's revival.

"We do not believe that there is a need or a desire for this competition among European clubs, fans, players or commercial partners," the board of the 102-member European Club Forum said in a prepared statement issued in Nyon, Switzerland.

"We would oppose it being played in the future. The challenge is to make the international calendar workable, not to add to it and increase the pressure on players. We hope that sense will prevail."

The World Cub Championship was launched in Brazil in 2000, but the 2001 event in Spain, for which the Galaxy qualified as CONCACAF champion, was first postponed until this year and then postponed indefinitely.

Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, the president of FIFA, has said he wants to see the tournament revived in 2005, but that now appears unlikely.

Balboa Released

Former U.S. national team defender Marcelo Balboa was among three players cut by the New York/New Jersey MetroStars as the team prepares for the upcoming Major League Soccer season.

Balboa, 35, a seven-year MLS veteran who played 128 games for the United States and appeared in the 1990, '94 and '98 World Cups, was released along with midfielder Ross Paule, 26, and Jamaican national team forward Andy Williams, 25.

D.C. United, meanwhile, released defender Ivan McKinley, 33, a former South African international who had played in MLS since its inception in 1996 and is the league's all-time leader in yellow cards (55) and red cards (seven) received during his 184 MLS games.

Italian Maneuvers

The Italian league, beset by financial problems among even its most successful teams and plagued by fan violence, Thursday moved toward restructuring itself in the hope of turning things around.

A proposal presented at a meeting in Milan of the presidents of the league's 38 professional clubs -- the 18 teams in Serie A and 20 in Serie B -- suggested a format under which the top 40 teams in the country (two would be elevated from Serie C) be split into two groups of 20 on a regional basis.

The championship would be decided in a playoff among the leading teams in each group. Such a radical change was favored by some, but not all.

"Football is in crisis and we have to do something about it," Antonio Matarrese, the league's vice president, argued on the UEFA Web site.

But Massimo Moratti, the president of Inter Milan, was more restrained.

"Football is in a difficult situation but maybe it will be fine after a couple of aspirins," he said. "We don't need to be hospitalized."

Venables to Stay

Terry Venables will not step down as coach of Leeds United despite his opposition to Thursday's $14.8-million sale of defender Jonathon Woodgate to rival Newcastle United, the English Premier League club insisted.

"Any suggestions that Terry Venables has resigned are categorically untrue," Leeds said on its Web site.

The former England manager has been at odds with Leeds United's board of directors over the ongoing sale of the team's top international players, including defender Rio Ferdinand to Manchester United for $47 million, forward Robbie Fowler to Manchester City for $9.8 million and now Woodgate.

Kaiserslautern Woes

Debt-ridden Kaiserslautern, in next-to-last place in the German Bundesliga and in danger of being relegated for only the second time in its 103-year history, received more bad news Thursday when German authorities handed it a bill for $13.8 million in back taxes.

"The situation of the club has dramatically worsened," Rene C. Jaeggi, Kaiserslautern's chairman, told Reuters.

To make ends meet, the club, already more than $30 million in debt, is considering selling its Betzenberg stadium, one of the venues for the 2006 World Cup.

Gascoigne Signed

Former England playmaker Paul Gascoigne's worldwide search for a team has finally come to an end, with the 35-year-old midfielder signing a one-year contract as player-assistant coach of the Chinese second division club Gansu Tianma.

"We noticed he has two shortcomings -- one is physical fitness, another is leg strength," Zhong Bohong, the club's general manager, was quoted as saying on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Web site.

"We picked him because he is a real professional football player. He has a good sense of the game. He has good skills and experience, especially in the big matches. We think he could play a key role in the team. We would like him to be the spiritual leader of the team."

Quick Passes

Barcelona today is expected to name a new coach to replace Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, who was forced out Monday. Among the candidates are former coach Carles Rexach, currently the Spanish team's sporting director; Radomir Antic of Yugoslavia; Cesar Luis Menotti, who coached Argentina's 1978 World Cup-winning team, and Quique Costas, Barcelona's reserve team coach.... Ecuador Coach Hernan Dario Gomez named 41-year-old defender Luis Capurro to his squad for a Feb. 9 game against Estonia in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The match will be Capurro's 100th for his country and will mark his retirement as a player....

Sun Wen, who shared FIFA's 2000 player of the year award, left the WUSA's Atlanta Beat to concentrate on playing for her national team, China, heading into the World Cup.

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