SARS may affect China as World Cup host

Women's draw postponed

other events are called off


April 13, 2003|By Philip Hersh | Philip Hersh,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHICAGO - The mysterious respiratory illness spreading across Southeast Asia has prompted some to speculate that the Women's World Cup soccer will be postponed or even moved from China.

FIFA, the sport's international governing body, announced on Thursday the indefinite postponement of the tournament's ceremonial draw that was scheduled for May 24 in Wuhan, China, because of health risks. But FIFA spokesman Markus Seigler also said there has been no talk of moving the Cup.

"With the draw just six weeks away, this decision makes sense," U.S. Soccer president S. Robert Contiguglia said. "At this time, we can't get into speculating how this might affect the actual Women's World Cup tournament."

The World Cup is scheduled for Sept. 23 to Oct. 11 in four cities - Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and Hangzhou - north of the province with the highest concentration of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) cases.

China has 1,290 reported cases of SARS with 55 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against nonessential travel to China.

The International Ice Hockey Federation canceled this month's women's world championship in Beijing. Also, the Asian women's soccer championship set for April 17-30 in Thailand has been postponed even though there only seven reported SARS cases in that country. That tournament was to determine the final World Cup qualifiers.

Alternative sites mentioned are Australia, the United States and Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation, the 1999 World Cup host, almost certainly does not want the event again so soon.

U.S. captain Julie Foudy said Thursday that some of her teammates are worried about a trip to China.

"They're afraid of the sickness - not only for themselves, but for family and friends who go to watch the matches," Foudy said.

Philip Hersh is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune

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