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Portugal Arrives in Macau to Train

May 18, 2002

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MACAU (AP) _ The Portuguese soccer team met Macau’s leader, attended a good luck Chinese ritual by burning incense sticks and then did some workout on the first day of its arrival Saturday in the former Portuguese territory to prepare for the World Cup tournament.

During the meeting with Chief Executive Edmund Ho at government headquarters, Captain Fernando Couto presented a Portuguese team jersey to Ho with the Macau leader’s name emblazoned on the back.

Ho invited the team to return to Macau for a visit after the May 31-June 30 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

The players were then taken by bus to Macau stadium where a roasted suckling pig and burning incense sticks were set up on an altar as part of the Chinese tradition of bringing good fortune before an important occasion.

The players put lighted incense sticks on a container and some bowed before it. They also dot the eyes of makeshift lions during a Chinese lion dance.

Then it was time for some training at the stadium, which was pelted by intermittent rain.

Portuguese star Luis Figo, FIFA’s World Player of the Year, told reporters that he was still not fully fit after he sustained an ankle injury earlier this year. FIFA is the world soccer’s governing body.

Figo, who plays for the Spanish club Real Madrid, said he wants to get fit as soon as possible so that he could give his ``best performance″ during the World Cup.

Earlier, the players were greeted by dozens of school children chanting ``Portugal″ and waving Portuguese flags as their chartered jet landed at Macau airport.

It was the first direct flight from Portugal to arrive in Macau since this former Portuguese territory reverted to Chinese rule in 1999.

The Portuguese will also play a friendly match against China in Macau on May 25 as part of their final training session.

The Portuguese are among those expected to do well at the World Cup.

They will train in Macau until May 29 before leaving for South Korea, where they play their first World Cup match against the United States in Suwon on June 5. The other two teams in the group are South Korea and Poland.

The Portuguese chose Macau as their training camp because of Portugal’s historic ties to the territory. Forty miles (64 kilometers) west of Hong Kong, Macau was governed by Portugal for 442 years.

The Chinese team will arrive in Macau on May 23.

The match between Portugal and China will be televised live in China.

In the World Cup, China will play in the same group as four-time champion Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica. The Chinese are making their first ever appearance in a World Cup tournament.

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