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Since 1st March, 1999
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AFC postpones qualifiers

Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) postponed two first-round soccer qualifiers for the 2004 Olympics, due to an outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The home-and-away series involving Taiwan versus Singapore on Saturday and April 19 and Hong Kong versus Sri Lanka on April 12 and 19, were scrapped temporarily, the regional soccer administration said in a statement. In recent weeks, health authorities in several Asian countries, particularly Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore, have been struggling to contain SARS, which has killed 78 people worldwide.

Owen doubtful vs United

Liverpool: Liverpool striker Michael Owen is an injury doubt for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Manchester United after sustaining a “dead back”, playing for England against Turkey on Wednesday. “I got a knee in my back in the first half and it stiffened up,” Owen said on the Liverpool website on Thursday after being substituted 58 minutes into the 2-0 win in Sunderland. “I probably should have come off at halftime to be honest but I carried on. I then fell on my back in the second half and couldn’t continue. “It remains to be seen whether I’m fit to play on Saturday.” If Owen is not fit, Czech striker Milan Baros is his most likely replacement.

Kournikova top pick in WTT

New York: Anna Kournikova was the top player selected in the World Team Tennis (WTT) draft by the Kansas City Explorers.

Boris Becker will make his debut in the league in July after being chosen Wednesday by the New York Buzz. The Philadelphia Freedoms picked Martina Navratilova. Andy Roddick will return for the St. Louis Aces, while James Blake will play again for the Hartford Foxforce. John McEnroe is back with the New York Sportimes. McEnroe will team up with brother and team co-owner Patrick McEnroe. Lindsay Davenport also will play in the WTT again, this time with the Newport Beach Breakers, who acquired her in a trade with the buzz.

Effenberg wish granted

Berlin: VfL Wolfsburg has released midfielder Stefan Effenberg from his contract with immediate effect at the captain’s request, Germany’s ZDF television reported on Thursday. The network said the former German international, who joined Wolfsburg at the start of the current season after leading Bayern Munich to the European title in 2001, had asked to be released from the remainder of his deal.

Effenberg was reportedly having problems with Wolfsburg’s new coach Juergen Roeber, who replaced the sacked Wolfgang Wolf last month. ZDF reported that Roeber had complained Effenberg was out of shape and needed to lose weight. The 34-year-old reportedly responded that his weight was the same as it was in 2001 when Bayern Munich won the Champions League.

Vow against drugs

Mexico City: Mexican film producer turned soccer club president Jorge Vergara vowed on Wednesday to kick the drugs out of Guadalajara, the popular first division side he bought at the end of last year. Vergara, best known as producer of the film “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, said he was frustrated at the state he had found the club.

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