Singular Conjugation Gets Players in Trouble

Brazil national soccer team coach Wanderley Luxemburgo left temperamental strikers Edmundo and Romario off his Copa America squad, then justified the decision with a lesson in the finer points of language.

Luxemburgo, who had disputes with both players when he was a club manager, said discipline had been a major factor when he chose the players who will defend the South American championship in Paraguay next month.

Sounding like a teacher giving a grammar lesson, he hinted that the brilliant but volatile pair thought only of themselves.

"A player who conjugates a verb in the first person singular cannot be part of the squad; he has to conjugate the verb in the first person plural," Luxemburgo said. "We. We want to conquer. We are going to conquer. ...

"Using the word `I' when you're in a group makes things complicated."

Brazil's roster will include World Cup stars Ronaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos and Leonardo.


Soccer Association Fined

Ireland's soccer association was fined $32,000 on Thursday by European soccer's governing body, UEFA, because the Irish government refused to grant visas to Yugoslavian players, effectively calling off their match earlier this month.

The government cited Serbia's role in the Kosovo conflict for its decision.

UEFA's control and disciplinary body ordered the match played at a later date, but didn't set the new date.

Ireland's fine will be donated to a charity organization nominated by UEFA.


Palmeiras Wins South American Title

Palmeiras of Brazil won its first Libertadores Cup on Wednesday, defeating Deportivo Cali of Columbia, 4-3, on penalty kicks in Sao Paulo. The Brazilian team had tied the aggregate goal totals for the two-match final -- the South American club soccer championship -- at 2 with a 2-1 victory in the second leg.

It was a classically controversial Libertadores match, as referee Ubaldo Aquino of Paraguay ejected two players and awarded a disputed penalty kick to Palmeiras, which Evair converted to open the scoring in the 65th minute.

Cali responded with Martin Zapata's penalty-kick goal in the 70th minute, and Oseas sent the match to the tiebreaker when he scored from close range in the 76th minute, knocking in a cross from Junior.

With the victory, Palmeiras will play European champion Manchester United in the Toyota Cup in Tokyo on Nov. 30.


All Done Hill

Three years after winning the Formula One championship, Damon Hill said he is retiring when the season ends.

Hill has crashed in four of his six races this year.

The 38-year-old son of two-time Formula One champion Graham Hill had his greatest success with Williams and thrived off his rivalry with two-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

But he has struggled since being fired by Williams just days before winning the 1996 series title. After a dismal year at Arrows, he moved to Jordan and 10 months ago won the Belgian Grand Prix.


Bad Break for Thomas

One of Michael Johnson's biggest 400-meter rivals, Iwan Thomas, withdrew from this summer's world championship because of a stress fracture of his left leg. The 25-year-old Welshman, who has not run this season but has a best of 44.36 seconds, said he would not be fit in time for the event Aug. 20-29 in Seville, Spain. "I'm absolutely gutted," Thomas said. "After my performances last summer I felt I could acquit myself well in the world championships. But I have to be realistic. There is no way I can get myself fit enough in time."

South Africa

In the Long Run, It's Janicki

Poland's Jaraslaw Janicki held off a pack that was gunning for a course record in South Africa's ultradistance Comrades Marathon on Wednesday, winning in 5 hours 30 minutes 10 seconds. The quirky race is more than double the marathon distance, about 56 miles. The course between Pietermaritzburg and Durban is reversed from year to year, making it either a grueling climb or a grueling descent -- as it was this year. Yet 14,100 runners entered, the second-largest field in the race's history. More than 15,000 ran in 1991. On the women's side, Germany's Birgit Lennartz won her first Comrades in 6:31:03, four minutes before South Africa's Grace de Oliveira.


You've Got to Hand It to the Swedes

Sweden defeated Russia, 25-24, to claim its fourth men's team handball world championship in Cairo on Tuesday. Yugoslavia finished third with a 27-24 victory over Spain. Sweden, which lost to Russia in the 1997 final, came back from a 14-12 halftime deficit behind the performance of Pierre Thorsson (six goals on seven shots). Stefan Lovgren, who finished as the tournament's third-leading goal scorer with 46, added five.


Well-Traveled Rhodes Goes Long

Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes hit a home run in a losing cause as the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks beat the Kinstetsu Buffaloes, 8-6, on Wednesday. Rhodes, who played in the major leagues from 1990 to 1996 with the Astros, Cubs and Red Sox, leads the Pacific League with 18 homers.


Hosts Field Two Teams

The host Australians will have two shots at a title in the finals of the International Field Hockey Federation Champions Trophy in Brisbane. In the men's event, Australia finished first in the group stage with a 3-1-1 record despite a surprise 2-1 loss to Pakistan on Friday. It will meet North Korea (2-1-2) in today's final. The women's final was played yesterday between Australia (4-0-1) and the Netherlands (3-1-1).

CAPTION: Coach Wanderley Luxemburgo believes in `we,' not in `I.'

CAPTION: Arley Betancourt of Colombia's Deportivo Cali slides between Rogerio, left, and DeArce of Brazil's Palmeiras.

CAPTION: Damon Hill won the 1996 Formula One championship.