Thursday, May 24, 2018
Sports

Cameroon's departure delayed by pay dispute

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Cameroon's players refused to board the plane taking them to Brazil on Sunday because of a long-running dispute over bonus payments.

The national federation later took out a loan to meet demands of about $125,000 per player (about $12,000 more than offered). The sport's governing body, FIFA, said the team would arrive in Brazil by today.

Cameroon's players — which include Europe-based stars such as Chelsea's Samuel Eto'o and Barcelona's Alex Song — have been in a dispute since last month, when they threatened to boycott practice. Reports in the West African nation said some refused to take part in Saturday's farewell ceremony.

The national federation said it had been unable to give players the money because it doesn't receive World Cup payments from FIFA until after the tournament. Each nation gets $1.5 million for preparations and is guaranteed at least $8 million in prize money.

Cameroon's players had previous disputes with the federation over bonus payments. One came ahead of the 2002 World Cup. In 2011 they refused to leave a hotel to travel to Algeria for a friendly.

Belgium: Tests on the right ankle of star striker Romelu Lukaku revealed no ligament damage. But his status for the opener June 17 was unknown. He was hurt during Saturday's 2-0 win over Tunisia. Belgium's other star striker, Christian Benteke, won't play in the tournament due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Too patriotic: A sign declaring Argentina as World Cup champ was removed. A sign at camp in Belo Horizonte on Saturday read, "Welcome future champions." National federation official Juan Carlos Crespi said it was his idea but it didn't go down well with captain Lionel Messi and coach Alejandro Sabella. A new sign says, "Welcome."

Few tickets for public: Of the 61,600 tickets available for Thursday's opening game between Brazil and Croatia, only 25,636 went to the general public, FIFA said. The rest went to commercial partners, broadcasters, organizers and hospitality programs.

No j-Lo: Jennifer Lopez will not perform the official theme song with Pitbull and Claudia Leitte at the opening ceremony because of "production issues," FIFA said. Lopez's representative declined to comment.

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