- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2004

I had a feeling FIFA boss Sepp Blatter was losing it. A few weeks ago, the most powerful man in soccer suggested that female players should wear skimpier outfits while in the same breath blasted Cameroon’s men’s team for wearing a revolutionary “one-piece” uniform. But after a week in London, where the cold air and warm beer must have cleared his thoughts, Blatter has to be applauded.

Chaired by Blatter, the International Football Association Board has decided to crack down on players who tear off their jerseys after scoring a goal. Are you listening, Brandi Chastain?

From July on, any player removing a shirt after scoring a goal will get a yellow card for unsporting behavior.

The whole shirt removal thing was getting rather ridiculous and boring. Players were waving their jerseys above their heads like extras in the movie “Braveheart” and inflaming opposing fans. Some players would get their arms tangled up in their shirts, while others wasted precious minutes retrieving jerseys thrown to the crowd. Give me Roy Lassiter’s cool “airplane” goal celebration or Alan Shearer’s simple arm-raising salute any day. Save the shirt antics for the locker room.

Money players — Manchester United, which will tour the United States this summer, has been named the richest sports franchise in the world based on last season’s income, according to the accounting firm Deloitte. The Red Devils earned $308million and even beat out America’s top franchise, the New York Yankees ($298.6million), and the Washington Redskins ($227.3million).

Italian giant Juventus, is the second-richest soccer club at $267.5million, followed by AC Milan ($245.3million), Real Madrid ($235million), Bayern Munich ($200million), Inter Milan ($199million), Arsenal ($183million), Liverpool ($183million), Newcastle United ($170.2million) and Chelsea ($164million).

Manchester United will play games in the ChampionsWorld tournament at Soldier Field in Chicago on July25, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on July28 and Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Last summer 79,000 saw the Red Devils take on Juventus at Giants Stadium.

Liverpool “is extremely likely” to be involved in the ChampionsWorld tour, said a source with knowledge of the tour, along with Scottish club Glasgow Celtic, which will play games in Boston and Toronto. Other possible entrants are Real Madrid and Chelsea. Details will be announced later this month.

D.C. United notes — Single-game tickets for D.C. United home matches at RFK Stadium went on sale this week, with prices ranging from $16 to $ 36. … The club also announced its new D.C. United Soccer Academy, which is for players ages 5-18 and will be run by former United star John Harkes. Information, 703/397-5468.

MLS news — The MetroStars of Major League Soccer acquired Jamaican forward Fabian Taylor, and the Dallas Burn signed Finnish midfielder Simo Valakari. Valakari, 30, spent the last four seasons with English club Derby County. The Burn also waived former D.C. United forward Ali Curtis.

World Cup 2006 — It looks like the U.S. men’s team will be taking on Grenada in World Cup qualifying June13 after the Caribbean nation downed visiting Guyana 5-0 in the first game of its World Cup qualifying series. Guyana has an uphill home game against Grenada on March14.

If the Americans defeat Grenada, they will advance to the semifinal round and open the four-team, six-match round robin competition on the road Aug.18 in Jamaica or Haiti. The first U.S. home game is scheduled for Sept.4, likely against El Salvador or Bermuda.

Corner kicks — Brazilian World Cup star Ronaldinho is getting a red card off the field. The Barcelona ace broke a window in Spain’s beloved 13th-century Santiago de Compostela cathedral this week while attempting a bicycle kick during the taping of a commercial. … Former Brazilian star Pele named his top 125 living players this week, and as expected his list did not include an American male. (Your time will come, Freddy Adu). Pele did list Korean defender Hong Myung Bo, who stars for the MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy. Other Major League Soccer alumni on the list include Hristo Stoitchkov, Carlos Valderrama, Lothar Matthaeus and Hugo Sanchez.

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