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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Man United's Ferguson brushes off retirement talk

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has no intention of retiring at the end of the Premier League season.

News photo
Not done yet: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is denying reports he will retire at the end of this season. AP PHOTO

Several British papers reported recently that the 68-year-old Ferguson was going to step down after 24 years in charge at Old Trafford, but the country's most successful manager said Friday that he had not contemplated it.

"It is rubbish," Ferguson said. "There is no truth in it."

Ferguson initially announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2001-02 season, when his team was also chasing a record fourth straight Premier League title.

But he changed his mind following a slump by his team and has since led the club to another four league titles to tie Liverpool with a record 18.

Following that experience, Ferguson says that he would not reveal any plans to voluntarily quit to anyone but the chief executive and club owners.

"I have no intention of retiring and if I did the people I would tell are David Gill and the Glazer family," Ferguson said.

Hoping for Mandela

ZURICH, (AP) FIFA president Sepp Blatter is hopeful that Nelson Mandela will be healthy enough to open the World Cup in South Africa.

"We cross fingers that Nelson Mandela . . . can realize this dream. And his dream would be to be at the opening of the World Cup. For the time being, he is doing well and we hope that he can do it," Blatter said Friday at his last regular news conference before the tournament starts June 11 in Johannesburg. "It will be his World Cup."

The former South African president, anti-Apartheid campaigner and Nobel Prize winner, now 91, made his last public appearance Feb. 11 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his release from prison.

Blatter, who faced questions about South Africa's readiness to host the tournament, added that he was confident the event would be a success and predicted that more than 95 percent of tickets will be sold.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who is responsible for overseeing the tournament, said South Africa was so well prepared it could start the World Cup "tomorrow."

None of the 300,000 remaining tickets will be given away, said Valcke, adding that sales over the past eight days indicated all remaining seats will be sold before the first match.

But he acknowledged that "we have to work on our ticketing" after initial sales were sluggish and organizers were forced to cut prices to encourage South Africans to attend.

Valcke also said FIFA was pleased that many airlines had scheduled additional flights to bring the 360,000 spectators expected to make their way to South Africa.

Asian Cup draw

Kyodo news

Japan will play Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria in the first round of the 2011 Asian Cup finals in Qatar after being placed in Group B in Friday's draw in Doha.

The three-time Asian champion will open its campaign at the Jan. 7-29 tournament against Jordan on Jan. 9, and play Syria on Jan. 13 before wrapping up the group stage against 2007 runnerup Saudi Arabia on Jan. 17.

Defending champion Iraq will take on Iran, North Korea and United Arab Emirates in Group D, while host Qatar is in Group A with China, Kuwait and Uzbekistan. Group C features Australia, Bahrain, South Korea and India.

The top two teams from each of the groups advance to the quarterfinals.

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