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German soccer club signs Cubans

A German fourth division soccer club signed virtually the entire Cuban senior national squad in an effort to rise to the third division.

The 15 players, all over 25 and unknown internationally, leave for Bonner SC, a small club from the city of Bonn, on Jan. 31.

Bonner SC will cover the Cubans' costs, and give them facilities and coaching. In return, the German club can field any of the players.

Cuba's Communist Party, which supervises sports on the island, said the sport was "open to initiatives which, of course, do not harm its sovereignty or that of Cuban sport in general."

"The explosiveness of the Caribbean footballer, and his speed, were virtues that surely caught the eye of the Bonn officials," the Communist Party daily Granma reported.

Bonner SC coach Rainer Thomas said recently that club bosses came up with the idea after watching a video of Cuba playing Brazil last year.

But he played down the idea that Cubans would take over the first team: "The chances of that are almost zero. I think too many players in my team are too good for that to happen."

Bonner SC officials traveled to Havana last month to clinch the deal, under which the Cubans will stay in Germany for the first half of the year before returning to play for Cuba in June's regional Caribbean Cup tournament.

MORE SOCCER: Germany, England, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt and Ghana bid to host the 2006 World Cup before Thursday's deadline. They have until the end of July to submit their full bid documents, with FIFA's executive committee scheduled to select the site in March 2000.

SOFTBALL: The inaugural David Wells Celebrity Classic is scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 9 at Legends Field in Tampa. Kirk Gibson, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Hal Morris, Tim Raines and Jim Thome are scheduled to play. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for those under 12 and over 61. Tickets are available at the Legends Field box office, (813) 879-2244, and through Ticketmaster, (813) 287-8844 or (727) 898-2100.

OLYMPICS: The International Olympic Committee insists it is "strong enough" to overcome the worst corruption scandal in modern Olympic history. In its year-end newsletter, the IOC addressed the accusations of bribery and extortion involving the selection process for Olympic host cities. "Since its foundation in 1894, the International Olympic Committee has been faced with problems of every nature, and it has always succeeded in overcoming them by taking the right decisions," the statement said. The IOC is conducting an investigation into accusations of bribery during Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Games.

BOXING: Promoter Roger Levitt remained upbeat about the prospects for the George Foreman-Larry Holmes fight set for Jan. 23, although it was unclear whether he met financial deadlines. "We believe the fight is 100 percent on," Levitt said. "We're doing some financial machinations with George and Larry." Foreman, who is to receive $10-million, has received $1-million in nonrefundable deposits from Levitt. Holmes, who is to get $4-million, has been paid $400,000

TENNIS: Russian federation vice president Alexander Kalivod said he had "serious doubts that (Anna) Kournikova will play for us in Fed Cup matches next year." Kournikova has missed Fed Cup duty several times.

HORSE RACING: A $256-million complex is planned for China, giving the sport a more modern look in the nation. Australian officials agreed to build the project in Dalian, on China's northeast coast. "We have a memorandum of understanding to build a race course and we are going to provide all the expertise to do it," said Peter McLellan, a member of the Australian parliament. "It is going to happen. It is not pie in the sky. We have a permit from the central Chinese government to do it."

_ Compiled from Times wires.

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