- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

Bill Shankly, the legendary coach of fabled Liverpool, once said, "[Soccer] isn't a matter of life and death it's much more important than that."

Shankly's oft-quoted remark sounds ridiculous in light of this week's terrorist attacks. Soccer, after all, is just a game. Still, even on the day of the attacks, major games were played in Europe. As the enormity of the tragedy sank in, some games were postponed.

Major League Soccer's sixth season came to an abrupt end when league commissioner Don Garber canceled the remaining regular-season games.

D.C. United's 28-game season was cut short by two games with the cancellation of Wednesday's game at RFK Stadium against the Dallas Burn and today's home game against the high-flying Miami Fusion.

While some leagues canceled play, other major games went on. The FIFA Under-17 World Championship in which the U.S. is competing began play in Trinidad and Tobago yesterday under tight security.

UEFA, European soccer's governing body, angered many by allowing Tuesday's Champions League games to continue. However, after an outcry from clubs, supporters and even the Vatican, UEFA postponed Wednesday matches, which included Manchester United's game against Olympiakos in Greece.

UEFA announced yesterday that European soccer will resume this weekend.

"It is now important to send another message one of hope," UEFA chief executive Gerhard Aigner said.

While the British media is reporting that 500 Britons are expected to be confirmed among the dead from the terrorist attacks, matches were still played midweek and regular games will continue this weekend.

American national team goalie Kasey Keller had a rough time in his club debut for Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-0 defeat by Torquay United on Thursday in London.

"I had a chat with Kasey in the week and checked to see if any family members or close friends had been involved in the disaster," said Keller's coach, Glen Hoddle. "He was mentally ready to play."

World Cup qualifying games also were played in Asia yesterday.

Iran held a minute of silence before its qualifier against Bahrain to honor those killed in the attacks. The crowd of about 60,000 sat quietly as players stood on the field and TV announcers kept silent.

"In tragic circumstances, football must symbolize the ideals of fair play and nonviolence, and encourage people to respect the dignity of each and every human being," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said. "The world today is no longer the one we knew. But football must remain a beacon of hope."

With D.C. United's season over, it also could be the end of Thomas Rongen's three-year tenure as coach. Rongen won the championship with United in 1999, but this is the second year in a row that the three-time MLS champion has missed the playoffs. United finished the season with an 8-16-2 record and 26 points after 26 games and stood ninth in the final regular-season standings. Only eight teams make the playoffs.

The club had an 8-18-6 record and 30 points after 32 games last season and came in 11th in the 12-team league.

If Rongen is fired, a likely replacement could be Ellicott City, Md., native John Ellinger, who is coaching the U.S. U-17 team at the world championships.

The MLS playoffs are scheduled to begin Thursday when Dallas (No. 7 seed) visits Chicago (2). Top seed Miami hosts Kansas (8) and San Jose (5) travels to Columbus (4) on Sept. 22. The following day, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (6) visit Los Angeles (3).

Tragedy hits home The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center caused panic at MLS headquarters on Forty-Second Street. MLS commissioner Don Garber was driving to his office via the Lincoln Tunnel when he saw the towers in flames. He then called his brother, who works a block away from the World Trade Center, and urged him to find safety.

MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis was airborne en route to Chicago from New York at the time of the attacks.

"We worked it out later that we had flown near the Twin Towers about 15 minutes before the impact," Gazidis said. "We were blissfully unaware of what was going on."

Garber said the league will play a benefit game soon to help victims of the attacks.

Youth tournament The FIFA Under-17 World Championship is going ahead in Trinidad and Tobago, but there will be an increase in the uniformed and undercover police accompanying the 16 teams, including the United States.

The U.S. team is in Group B with France, Japan and Nigeria and played its first game yesterday against Japan at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Tobago. The Americans play France tomorrow in Tobago and Nigeria on Wednesday.

Deja vu The attacks brought back horrid memories for former D.C. United defender Carlos Llamosa.

Llamosa, who now plays with Miami, was a janitor at the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993, when a bomb exploded in the basement, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000. Fortunately, Llamosa was at lunch.


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