World Cup spy saga unfolds

BATTLE: China's Han Duan, centre, reacts as Denmark's Cathrine Paaske Sorensen, second from right, heads the ball for a goal during their match at the Wuhan Sports Centre Stadium on Wednesday. Pic. Alvin Chan. 12/09/07. © Reuters.
BATTLE: China's Han Duan, centre, reacts as Denmark's Cathrine Paaske Sorensen, second from right, heads the ball for a goal during their match at the Wuhan Sports Centre Stadium on Wednesday. Pic. Alvin Chan. 12/09/07. © Reuters.

WUHAN - The women's World Cup took an ugly turn yesterday after Denmark contacted Fifa and police over apparent spying as reports claimed a Danish coach had verbally abused the Chinese team.

WUHAN - The women's World Cup took an ugly turn yesterday after Denmark contacted Fifa and police over apparent spying as reports claimed a Danish coach had verbally abused the Chinese team.

Two men, described as Chinese, were found with video cameras sitting behind a mirror in the hotel in Wuhan city where Denmark's football team are staying during the tournament, team spokesman Pia Schou Nielsen said.

"The team was in a tactical meeting in the hotel conference room that had one mirror on Tuesday before our match," she said.

"We had a look - mostly for a joke - behind the mirror and [found] two people with cameras.

"They refused to come out and the hotel management and police were called. The two people were taken away by police," Nielsen said, adding that she did not know who the men were but both looked Chinese.

Fifa was also contacted. But the sport's global governing body said it had decided not to press ahead with an investigation even though it acknowledged a breach in security.

"According to the team of Denmark, the privacy of an internal team's meeting at their hotel in Wuhan on the day prior to their first game in the competition has been compromised," Fifa's chief spokesman Nicolas Maingot said.

"Fifa, the Danish delegation and the hotel have since duly examined the case. Following their investigations, Fifa and team Denmark decided not to pursue the case further," an e-mailed statement said.

It was the second apparent case of spying on Denmark ahead of their fixture against China on Wednesday in Wuhan which saw the sixth-ranked Danes fall 3-2 to a last-minute goal by Chinese substitute Song Xiaoli.

On Monday, the team also discovered men filming from a building near a closed training session, Nielsen said.

Zhu Wenxiu, a media official for the Chinese Football Association in Wuhan, refuted the allegations.

"We heard about this but after an investigation it was found there was no such incident," he said.

The claims nevertheless fuelled already high tensions after it emerged that a Danish assistant coach had allegedly verbally abused and flipped his middle finger at the Chinese side after Wednesday's tough match.

"A Denmark official looking like an assistant coach walked up to us and raised his middle finger toward us," popular Chinese web portal sina.com reported, quoting a Chinese team insider.

The unnamed Dane's action sparked an altercation on the field as the Chinese team were rapturously celebrating their last-gasp victory in front of more than 50000 cheering fans.

"He even yelled a four-letter word at us. We could not bear it and made some arguments with him," the witness said in allegations also carried by China's official Xinhua news agency.

Fifa's Maingot said he was not aware of the incident, but Denmark's Nielsen admitted that tempers were running hot.

"There was a lot of frustration after the match. I have not heard of any fingers or yelling but there was frustration among the leaders of both teams," she said.

It followed Danish head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller refusing to shake hands with his counterpart, Marika Domanski-Lyfors, after the match. - Sapa-AFP

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