Ballack mum on threat to captaincy

HAMBURG - Michael Ballack will not be drawn into a row on the future of the Germany captaincy after Philipp Lahm challenged him for the job beyond the World Cup.

HAMBURG - Michael Ballack will not be drawn into a row on the future of the Germany captaincy after Philipp Lahm challenged him for the job beyond the World Cup.

"I don't want to comment on the issue," Ballack told yesterday's edition of Luxembourg paper L'Essentiel.

Ballack, 33, is undergoing further rehabilitation for his ankle injury in Luxembourg after ending a visit to the German World Cup team in South Africa.

Ballack is the Germany captain but has been sidelined because of the injury.

Bayern Munich right-back Lahm took over the captaincy for the tournament in South Africa and said in several newspaper interviews this week that he would not like to give up the role.

The statements, which coincided with Ballack's unexpected departure from the team on Monday, sparked a debate on whether Ballack should be captain again, and whether he should return to the team at all.

Germany have played outstanding football at the World Cup without Ballack, including a stunning 4-0 victory over Argentina and a 4-1 drubbing of England.

Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus is among those who has suggested Ballack should retire from the national team.

Neither coach Joachim Loew nor team manager Oliver Bierhoff have condemned Lahm's statements, though Bierhoff named them "untimely" ahead the semifinal with Spain, which was played in Durban last night.

Football icon Franz Beckenbauer said in his column for yesterday's Bild that it was "irrelevant" whether Ballack was captain or not, and that he was still needed in the team. - Sapa-DPA

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