Female Fan Injured by Kicked Ball

Times Staff Writer

Police in Birmingham, England, are investigating an incident in which an unidentified 20-year-old woman was knocked unconscious by a ball kicked into the crowd during a first division match on Saturday.

Sunderland defender Darren Williams thought he was simply kicking an extra ball out of play during the game against West Bromwich Albion, but his shot struck the head of a West Brom fan, who had to be hospitalized.

"It was a complete accident," Williams said. "There were two balls on the pitch, and I kicked one of them off. It was never my intention to hurt anybody, and I deeply regret what has happened."

Police are reviewing videotape of the incident.

Drug Ban

The Spanish Committee for Sports Discipline on Monday upheld the two-year ban imposed on Athletic Bilbao midfielder Carlos Gurpegi, 23, who twice tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone.

The club said it would appeal the decision and Gurpegi, who has denied wrongdoing and has continued playing during the appeal process, said he would take his case to the civil courts.

Colombian Tragedy

One unidentified fan was killed and 35 others were injured, one of them critically, when a railing gave way under pressure at a stadium in Barranquilla, Colombia, on Sunday night as Atletico Junior supporters celebrated a 1-0 home victory over Tulua.

Viduka Fined

Australian international Mark Viduka of Leeds United faces a possible fine of $220,000 -- two weeks' salary -- after turning up late for practice last week and then being late for a team meeting before Leeds' 4-1 English Premier League loss to Arsenal on Saturday.

Coach Peter Reid dropped Viduka from his lineup for that game, saying, "There just can't be rules for one and different rules for others." Viduka's future with the last-place club appears uncertain.

Bayern Munich Woes

Bayern Munich defender Thomas Linke was banned for four games by the German soccer federation after throwing an elbow at Schalke midfielder Niels Oude Kamphuis during Saturday's 2-0 Bayern loss.

That defeat left Bayern six points out of first place and prompted Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld to question his players' ability.

"We're just an average team -- I'm scared we're going to completely lose touch with the teams at the top," he said.

Athens 2004

The United States, which finished fourth in the soccer tournament of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, will play its first and only home qualifying game for the Athens 2004 Olympics on Nov. 19 at Germantown, Md., U.S. Soccer announced.

Given a bye in the first round, the U.S. team, under Coach Glenn Myernick, opens qualifying play with a two-game series against St. Kitts & Nevis. The first match will be at St. Kitts on Nov. 15.

The series winner will join host Mexico and six other teams in a final qualifying tournament to be played Feb. 2-12 in Mexico.

The two finalists in that event will earn the CONCACAF region's two berths in Athens.

Quick Passes

Big-spending Chelsea, which has lavished almost $170 million on players in the last four months, is chasing Argentine defender Roberto Ayala, 30, who plays for Spanish league leader Valencia.

The city of Klagenfurt, Austria, has voted to build a $46-million stadium that will be one of eight venues for the 2008 European Championship to be jointly staged by Austria and Switzerland.

Adriano, the Brazilian striker whose seven goals in Parma's first eight Serie A matches have made him the second-leading scorer in Italy, will be sidelined for up to two months after injuring his left thigh.

Times wires services contributed to this report.

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