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Since 1st March, 1999
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Popov adieu after Athens

Paris: Russian swimmer Alexander Popov is planning to retire from the sport he has dominated for more than a decade after next year’s Olympic Games in Athens. “In February, the intensity of my training sessions will increase. I will swim for miles and miles keeping in mind that my priority remains the Athens Olympics,” he told French sports daily L’Equipe in an interview on Thursday after settling in his new home in Switzerland. “I will bid farewell to competition then (in Athens).”

Popov, who won the 1992 and 1996 Olympic 50m and 100m freestyle titles, announced last year that he was moving to Solothurn, Switzerland, to reduce travelling time in his role as a member of the IOC athletes’ commission in Lausanne.

Batistuta may move to Inter Milan

Rome: AS Roma striker Gabriel Batistuta could be on his way to Inter Milan, according to reports in the Italian press.

“Inter go for Batistuta,” read the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday. Rome-based sports paper Il Corriere dello Sport followed suit with the headline: “Batigol — Roma bye-bye”.

A thigh injury to Inter striker Hernan Crespo at the weekend has left the Serie A club looking for a replacement and both Inter president Massimo Moratti and coach Hector Cuper are long-time admirers of Batistuta.

Batistuta’s contract with Roma expires at the end of this season but could be renewed on a year-by-year basis. The main stumbling block for a possible move, though, is the price. In the event of a deal being struck, Batistuta could go to Inter on loan until his contract with Roma expires in June.

Bryan Robson on Ireland shortlist

Dublin: Former Manchester United and England midfielder Bryan Robson has emerged as the favourite to succeed Mick McCarthy as manager of the Republic of Ireland squad. Robson confirmed his interest Wednesday, a day after the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) was handed an undisclosed shortlist of candidates by specially-appointed headhunter, the former Northern Ireland coach Bryan Hamilton. FAI officers will take a decision by the end of the month, spokesman Brendan McKenna said.

Other candidates for the job include former internationals John Aldridge and Frank Stapleton, and former Wimbledon boss Joe Kinnear.

Abduction charge

Johannesburg: South African international Jabu Pule, who played for his country at last year’s World Cup finals, appeared in a Soweto court on Wednesday charged with the alleged abduction of a 16-year-old girl.

Pule, 22, was released on bail of 4,000 rand ($454.3) after a brief appearance in the Protea magistrate’s court, his club Kaizer Chiefs confirmed on Thursday. He will appear again on February 7.

A warrant for Pule’s arrest was issued on Tuesday after the mother of the girl laid a complaint at the weekend.

Police superintendent Richard Luvhengo said the complaint related to an incident on December 22 when Tshegofatso Mokopi went partying with the South African international and failed to return home.

Her mother, Cynthia Mokopi, laid the charge and the girl was found by police at a house in Soweto and returned home on Monday. The official Kaizer Chiefs website on Thursday alleged the girl had gone willingly with Pule and also with her mother’s blessing, after Pule had given Cynthia an autograph.

Capello breaks month-long silence

Rome: AS Roma coach Fabio Capello has broken more than a month of press silence to hit back at allegations that his team is divided and demotivated. “I know how to pull a squad together when it counts,” he was quoted as saying in Thursday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“This isn’t the hardest time since I’ve been at Roma,” he added. “Certainly, only God is perfect and I’ve made mistakes, but that’s the nature of the job and I deal with problems every day.”

Players and staff had been under orders not to speak publicly after losing 0-1 to AC Milan at the beginning of December.

Roma have had a turbulent season so far. A 0-1 loss at the weekend to Chievo Verona added to earlier losses to Bologna, Modena, Parma and Milan leaving the club in eighth place in Serie A. Fans jeered out-of-form striker Gabriel Batistuta during the Chievo match, while an injury to Inter Milan’s Hernan Crespo has fuelled speculation that they might be about to bring in Batistuta as a replacement.

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