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FIFA: German referees command respect
Updated: 2005-02-17 08:57

Soccer's governing body insists that German referees still command respect and have FIFA's full support despite the game-fixing scandal that has shaken the country a year before it hosts the World Cup.

"We cannot hold them all responsible for the actions of one person," FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar Llona said Wednesday.

Villar Llona, chairman of FIFA's referees' committee and president of the Spanish association, added that the scandal will have "no bearing whatsoever" on the World Cup.

Franz Beckenbauer, president of the World Cup organizing committee, has said the scandal was disrupting preparations.

German referee Robert Hoyzer was in custody after admitting fixing or trying to fix seven games in return for bribes from Croatian gamblers. Three Croatian brothers from Berlin also are in custody.

Prosecutors are investigating 25 people, including four referees and 14 players, suspected of manipulating at least 10 games, mostly in lower divisions. The German federation has suspended five referees. Hoyzer has implicated others.

Villar Llona spoke at the end of a five-day FIFA workshop for the 46 referees shortlisted for the World Cup. He said FIFA was starting workshops for referees so early because it wanted to "leave nothing to chance."

Markus Merk, a top German referee attending the workshop, said these were "very difficult and bitter days" for his colleagues.

Villar Llona said German referees "have been doing a very good job for years, and we fully support them and the German Soccer Federation."

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