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No Sliding Tackle at World Cup

June 2, 1998

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Ronaldo and his striker colleagues should flourish at the World Cup now that FIFA has outlawed the sliding tackle. It’s the defenders who are crying foul and coaches who are worried about adapting game plans to the new rules.

FIFA made the move to protect the biggest stars, especially the attackers, from being injured by physical defenders.

German coach Berti Vogts, one of the strongest critics of FIFA’s move, is so concerned he is taking a German referee to the team’s training camp in France.

``The decision was made by people who are 70 years old,″ Vogts said of FIFA’s rule change.

Vogts is afraid that mandatory red cards for sliding tackles could decimate his defense at the World Cup. Many other coaches share his concern.

``We have to adjust ourselves now. We must use quicker defenders,″ Vogts said.

There is some hard tackling in the Bundesliga and Juergen Kohler, Vogts’ No. 1 stopper, is one of the kings of the art. One of his late challenges in an exhibition game against Brazil earned him a red card.

``That was justified. But to punish every tackle from behind, even if you clearly play the ball, is a joke,″ Kohler said. ``I won’t be able to do anything anymore.

``Some rule changes have been good. Since the back pass to the goalkeeper has been banned, the game has become faster. But the sliding tackle rule will have only one consequence: it will produce a flood of red cards.″

Otto Rehhagel, one of Germany’s most prominent coaches who just guided Kaiserslautern to the Bundesliga title, disagrees.

``Good defenders don’t have to use the sliding tackle,″ Rehhagel said. ``Good positioning and heading and good vision can make up even for a lack of speed.″

Rehhagel said he expected the new rule to take some aggression out of the game, aggression that sometimes would carry over to the stands. Sliding tackles also carry enormous injury risks for the targeted players, he said.

Italy coach Cesare Maldini is worried about the rule for coaches and defenders.

``It could cause big problems to defenses, because you don’t always commit a foul tackling a forward from behind. Referees must be very careful in their decisions,″ Maldini said.

Taribo West, the Inter Milan star defender who will play for Nigeria at the World Cup, added, ``Several teams risk to end World Cup matches with eight players because of the new rules. I hope referees are not sending defenders out at the first controversial tackle.″

Even some forwards think FIFA may have gone too far.

``Forwards seem to be overly protected with the new rules,″ said AC Milan striker George Weah.

Previous rule changes _ three points for a victory, more leeway in offsides judging and no handling of back passes to the goalkeeper _ also initially were received with skepticism, only to be generally accepted and praised now.

``Several coaches are experimenting with a more attacking system. I think we will see very interesting matches in the World Cup,″ Weah said.

``All innovations are intended to make the game more interesting and have more goals scored. Scoring goals is the sense of the game.″

The sliding tackle rule came too late to be implemented in European leagues. But in Major League Soccer, red cards quadrupled in the first 17 games.

``There has been a certain amount of controversy,″ MLS commissioner Doug Logan said. ``We are very comfortable with the way we’re enforcing the rule.″

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