Out of shape referees sent home

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

Nine FIFA Under-20 World Cup referees -- three each from Russia, Argentina and Brazil -- were sent home yesterday after failing physical examinations prior to the opening games of the tournament.

FIFA officials said that each member country supplies a trio of referees and if even one in the group fails the test, all are taken off the rosters for the 24-nation competition.

"In one of the steps FIFA has taken to significantly improve refereeing standards, instructions issued to the referees prior to the competition made it clear that entire trios would be forced out of the competition if any of their members failed the fitness test," FIFA announced in a statement.

The nine will be replaced by three Canadian referees -- Steven Depiero, Silviu Petresco and Paul Ward -- who will act as fourth officials for the tournament.

Meanwhile, FIFA said yesterday that English referee Howard Webb -- who was to officiate the Group C Portugal-New Zealand game tomorrow at BMO field -- will be replaced by Depiero for "logistical reasons."

PIN-UP BOY

Canada U-20 midfielder Jaime Peters was the object of teammates' teasing yesterday during practice for today's game against Chile.

Players kept coming up to the 20-year-old Pickering native mocking him over being the cover boy for the team's official under-20 magazine.

"They are just jealous because the photographer chose me for the cover," he said.

STAMP OF APPROVAL

Canada Post yesterday launched a special 52 cent stamp to mark the start of the Under-20 World Cup of Soccer.

The stamp pictures five U-20 Canadian players kicking around a ball.

"It is a great honour that Canada Post has issued a special stamp to commemorate the FIFA U-20 World Cup," FIFA president Joseph Blatter said.

"The initiative to create a special stamp is a clear reflection of the growing importance of soccer in Canada."


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