Paraguay flyin' high

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

And you thought Jetsgo was bad.

Paraguay's soccer team has been forced to rely on its national Air Force to get to and from World Cup qualifiers.

And while there's not much chance of it filing for bankruptcy in the near future, the ride hasn't exactly been ... er, smooth.

The team's arrival in Ecuador for last weekend's game was delayed when a crack was discovered in the cockpit windshield shortly after takeoff.

That forced the plane to return to the airport in Paraguay for repairs.

When the team eventually arrived in Ecuador, Paraguay proceeded to get thumped 5-2 by their rivals.

But any hopes of putting the ordeal behind them ran into more turbulence when their Boeing 707 had a little trouble taking off. The flight was grounded again - this time due to engine trouble - and as the Sun went to press, the team was considering taking a commercial flight instead.

But with no direct flights between the two countries, the team was facing a huge detour - and a race against time to make it home for today's game against Chile.

UN-BEE-LIEVABLE: Things were even worse for fans celebrating Zambia's win over Congo in another weekend World Cup qualifier.

One fan was taken to hospital and 17 needed treatment after a lighting pylon collapsed at the Chililabombwe stadium in Zambia's northern Copperbelt.

Spectators had taken up a viewing position on the pylon and it collapsed under their weight when they started celebrating Zambia's second goal.

But that wasn't the end of the trouble. As the pylon collapsed, a bee hive on the pylon was dislodged and a swarm of angry bees began stinging fans.

One fan reportedly jumped the perimeter fence and ran onto the pitch to escape the bees.

But on a weekend marred by several terrible acts of fan violence and rioting, this story at least had a happy ending.

The game continued and Zambia won 2-0 to keep them joint top of African zone Group One.

FEELIN' THE HEAT: When planes aren't breaking down and fans aren't being attacked by bees, teams have been wrestling with some more natural roadblocks. Namely, heat and altitude.

Real Madrid striker Ronaldo insisted the fact that he wheezed and spluttered through Brazil's 1-0 win over Peru had nothing to do with his spare tire.

"The players who come from Europe are not used to this weather,'' he told Brazilian television of the sweltering conditions.

The Samba superstar had earlier blamed the high altitude of Quito for an equally uninspiring display when Brazil lost their previous qualifier 1-0 to Ecuador in November.

After Argentina beat Bolivia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier 3,600 metres above sea level, coach Jose Pekerman was able to be a little more positive.

"Football prevailed over altitude,'' he told reporters. "The secret was to keep the ball and pass it around with tranquility.''

SINGING THE BLUES: Tranquility wasn't something defender Salvador Carmona expected to find in abundance when his Mexico team arrived in Panama for today's World Cup qualifier.

He says that during a trip to Panama with the national team five years ago, Mexican players were kept up all night by rival fans who had gathered outside their hotel.

"In that year, they created a noisy atmosphere which didn't allow us to sleep,'' Carmona told the El Universal newspaper.

"It was a plan. The hotel was in league with the people outside. They spent the whole night singing.''


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