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World Cup Notebook

June 15, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ The finger-pointing in the World Cup ticket scandal has reached very high levels, with the president of France saying it’s soccer’s problem and soccer’s boss saying the sport has been the victim of shady businesses.

In an interview with the BBC’s David Frost, President Jacques Chirac said the French government was sorry that thousands of fans had been left without tickets, but the blame did not rest there.

``That is not our reponsibility,″ Chirac said. ``We have nothing to do with this, it is FIFA, you know, you understand FIFA?″

Sepp Blatter, the new president of the international soccer body, said FIFA and the French World Cup organizers ``must learn from this situation and make sure it never happens again.″

``It is not solely the problem of football; it is a global problem,″ Blatter said. ``Cheats are everywhere. You cannot just put a halt to it overnight. I know that not everyone can be good and respectful of the rules.″

French prosecutors have opened investigations of the ticket scams.


A HIT IN JAPAN: While World Cup telecasts may be drawing small TV audiences in the United States, they are a huge hit in Japan, where fans are watching the home team in the tournament for the first time.

Nearly two-thirds of households in the Tokyo area watched Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Argentina. The TV ratings company Video Research said coverage of the World Cup debut attracted 9 million out of 15 million households in the region.

That figure was the sixth highest rating in the capital region since Video Research began compiling statistics in 1962, and almost twice that for the opening ceremony of the Nagano Winter Olympics last February.

``Japan had long awaited the country’s debut on the World Cup stage,″ said Katsuji Ebisawa, chairman of the NHK network, which televised the game starting at 9:22 p.m. Tokyo time Sunday. ``The game even attracted those who until now had no interest in soccer at all.″

The opening of the Nagano Games drew 35.8 percent viewership.

U.S. ratings for World Cup matches have been in the neighorhood of 1 percent, although the American team didn’t play until Monday night against Germany.


NOT TONIGHT ... OR ANY NIGHT: Unlike other World Cup teams, Moroccan coach Henri Michel had no need to enact a celibacy rule. It was taken for granted, sanctioned by a higher authority.

``They are, first and foremost, Muslims, and Muslims don’t frolic with female fans,″ said a source close to the country’s football federation. ``It’s just not done.″

Morocco, with a draw against Norway in the opener, plays defending champion Brazil on Tuesday.

``This is going to be a very difficult match. But Insha’allah (with God’s will), we will have the desire, dedication and skill to win,″ forward Salaheddine Bassir said, using the Arabic phrase that implies that everything is determined by God.


IDLE MONDAY: Much of Britain shut down to watch England defeat Tunisia in the World Cup, but time lost to ``Idle Monday″ may not have been as bad as bosses feared.

Many Londoners braved a subway strike to get to work, rather than using the walkout as a convenient excuse to stay home and watch England win its first match of the tournament, 2-0.

Executives at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said their concerns about lost productivity may have been overblown. They had first predicted the combination of soccer and the strike would cost London businesses $57 million on Monday alone. But more workers than expected were showing up.

Final estimates for any losses from absenteeism were not available, but a spokesman for the chamber, Vincent Burke, said: ``I still think we’ll be seeing millions of pounds lost today.″

Offices throughout the land were emptier than usual during the afternoon, and pubs with big-screen televisions were considerably fuller as many people who came to work found the idea of a long lunch irresistible.

World Cup fever even spilled into a summit of European Union leaders in Cardiff, Wales, although it did not halt their talks. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had updates on the game delivered to Europe’s top politicians at regular intervals.

``I just wish I had been able to watch the game, but we got the messages,″ Blair said later. ``Every 15 minutes we were getting an update.″

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