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Rediff.com  » Sports » Schumacher to start race to 2006 WC finals

Schumacher to start race to 2006 WC finals

December 05, 2003 06:10 IST
The great and the good of the global soccer family have arrived for Friday's World Cup draw where the fastest man on four wheels will start the race to the 2006 finals.

World Formula One champion Michael Schumacher will help draw the names at Frankfurt's Festhalle in an event attended by some 3,500 guests, including celebrities from show business, sport and politics.

Jerome Champagne, FIFA's deputy general secretary, will hope to produce a vintage performance as compere for the 90-minute extravaganza which is being broadcast live to more than 100 countries, with millions more people following proceedings live on the internet. It begins at 1705 local time (1605 GMT).

As well as assistance from Schumacher, Champagne will also be helped by nine other sporting personalities.

Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, who took control of the 2002 World Cup final, will help draw the European zone groups, stepping in following the withdrawal of pop singer Sting.

Other celebrities include former Mexico goalkeeper Jorge Campos, U.S. women's international Brandi Chastain, and former internationals Bum Kun Cha of South Korea, Yasuhiko Okudera of Japan and Abedi Pele of Ghana who all played for German clubs.

Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour will also be involved along with Oceania's Player of the Century, Wynton Rufer of New Zealand, and Manfred Schaefer, who played for Australia at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.

Wolfgang Niersbach, a vice-president of the World Cup organising committee, said: "It is a great pleasure to welcome all our guests to Frankfurt, the home of the German Football Association. We are optimistic of putting on a great show and of the draw being a great success."

MUCH BIGGER

The World Cup has more than doubled in size since it was last held in West Germany.

Sixteen teams took part in that tournament compared with the current 32. In 1974, 106 countries entered the qualifying competition compared to 197 for 2006 and 252 qualifying round matches were played compared with an estimated 850-plus scheduled for the 2006 finals.

Germany too is a changed country. In 1974 it was a divided nation with a team from East Germany qualifying for the finals for the only time -- and beating West Germany in a first-round match -- before West Germany went on to win the cup.

In 1974, 1.8 million match tickets were available, while in 2006 there will be 3.2 million.

Franz Beckenbauer, the president of the Organising Committee, said this week that preparations were so well advanced that the World Cup could almost start tomorrow.

"We are bang on schedule in every respect," he said. "I am certain we can handle any problems that will inevitably come up between now and 2006."

Mike Collett
Source:
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