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Special track and field meet held for hill tribe youth

Top World Cup nations need biggest stars to shine

Special track and field meet held for hill tribe youth

The hill tribe youngsters fly down the track in one of the sprint races.

Nopniwat Krailerg

A track and field event for hill tribe youngsters from the northern region, organized by the Special Thai Olympic Athletics Association, was held at the Chiang Mai Municipality Stadium on Tuesday, June 1.

The games were attended by 127 young hill tribe members, all of them with disabilities, from the four northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Nan.

Accompanying the young athletes were some 36 athletics trainers and coaching staff, and 60 volunteers and committee members working in cooperation with Chiang Mai Municipality, the 3rd Development Battalion, Chiang Mai Rajabhat University, Chiang Mai Family Services and the Physical Educational Institution.

The Special Thai Olympic Association was first established in 1987 by Chunking Soporn Wongsawan, as the first chairperson, continuing the work implemented under the Foundation for the Welfare for the mentality challenged of Thailand under the royal patronage of Her Majesty the Queen. Four years on, the organization was registered as a member of the Sports Authority of Thailand.

At present, Thailand has more than 13,000 sportsmen under the Special Olympics project covering every province in Thailand, with sports ranging from athletics to football, basketball, ping-pong, swimming, tennis and others being included in the program.

Medals were presented to all the day’s winners.

Top World Cup nations need biggest stars to shine

Robert Millward

London (AP) - From the shot-stopping talent of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to the mesmerizing dribbles and scoring skills of Argentina forward Lionel Messi, the leading World Cup contenders will all be looking to their most influential stars to guide them to the biggest trophy in football over the next four weeks.

Although Brazil, Spain, England and Argentina have talented players throughout the team, they still rely on key individuals to shine brighter than the others.

If players like Buffon and Messi don’t play to their usual high standards it affects the confidence of their teammates. Conversely, a vital stop by the Italian ‘keeper or a mesmerizing run and goal by the diminutive Argentine lifts them all.

Buffon has been one of the world’s best goalkeepers for a decade, playing 100 times for his country. He was in Italy’s squad for the 1998 World Cup but didn’t get a game and, when the team won the title for the fourth time in Germany four years ago, he did not concede a goal in five games, including a run of 453 minutes.

Because of the way the draw for this year’s World Cup pans out, Buffon can’t run into Messi until the semifinals.

The young Barcelona forward made his mark at the 2006 World Cup with a goal in his first game in the competition at age 18, and was one of the stars of his club’s triple triumph last season, which included the Spanish league and Champions League titles.

Messi torments defenders with his ball control, pulling them out of position to set up goals for teammates or weaving through to hit the target. Without a World Cup triumph since 1986, Argentina badly need him to be on form in South Africa.

Brazil will be chasing their sixth World Cup title armed with quality players throughout the team. If Kaka is struggling for form, however, the team won’t likely have the extra ingredient to turn a good team into a great one. Like Messi, Kaka can create a goal with a moment of sheer brilliance - a dribble or an expertly timed pass to set up a chance for a proven scorer like Luis Fabiano.

Unlike Brazil, which last won the title in 2002, England have been waiting for a World Cup triumph since 1966, when Geoff Hurst scored the only hat trick in a final at Wembley against West Germany. Now, the English will be looking to Wayne Rooney to inspire something similar.

With his powerful, all-action style of play even when he is back helping his defenders, Rooney has the ability to lift the team and the fans when he is at his best. A defender’s nightmare, he muscles them out of the way and scores goals from distance and close range, hitting the target more than 30 times this season. He has the tendency to lose his temper, however, and was sent off in his last World Cup appearance four years ago for stamping on a Portuguese opponent.

Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo was Rooney’s Manchester United teammate in those days, but moved to Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee last June. Ronaldo will be Portugal’s key player as the team face Brazil and Ivory Coast in a tough World Cup group in a competition where they have never made the final.

The same, surprisingly, applies to current European champions Spain, despite the fame of club sides Real Madrid and Barcelona, and it will be a big disappointment for the Spaniards if they fail to make it to the final at Soccer City on July 11.

With Fernando Torres, David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Iker Casillas in the lineup, Spain have an abundance of talent throughout the team. But the player who pulls things together is Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez, and he could be the orchestrator who takes the team to its long overdue first world title.

The two-time runners-up Netherlands reached this year’s World Cup by winning all their qualifying games. But they will rely heavily on Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben being in top form.

Likewise, 1998 champions and 2006 runners-up France are low in confidence and only reached the tournament with the help of a handball by Thierry Henry, who is at his fourth World Cup. France’s best player, however, could be Franck Ribery, who hopes to shake off injury and doubts about his club future by shining at the World Cup.

Three-time World Cup winners Germany will be relying on the goals of Miroslav Klose now that midfield general Michael Ballack has been ruled out by injury, while the United States will look to Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley to guide them to at least the quarterfinals.

Of the other nations, Steven Pienaar hopes to use his Premier League experience to help the hosts, while Tim Cahill, the attacking midfielder who has the habit of scoring vital goals for Everton, could be the player to influence Australia’s World Cup chances.

South Korea will look to Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung to make an impact, and Japan will be hoping that midfielder playmaker and free kick expert Shunsuke Nakamura will regain form and boost the team’s World Cup chances.

The 2010 World Cup kicks off this Friday at 9 p.m. (Thai Time) with the hosts South Africa taking on Mexico in Soccer City, Johannesburg. Check out the World Cup schedule in this week’s Chiang Mai Mail for the dates and times of all the first round matches.