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Afghan National Soccer Players Missing In Italy

Verona, Italy; 13 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Nine members of the Afghan national soccer team have gone missing in Italy on the eve of the squad's first appearance in Europe in 20 years.

Italian police say it is unclear whether the players -- who are not in possession of their passports -- are seeking to remain in Italy.

The team's coach, Mir Ali Asger Akbarzola, was quoted as telling Italian news agency ANSA that he is angry over the disappearance and that the players will not be allowed to play even if they return.

Afghanistan is due to face the Italian team Verona today as part of a tour marking the national team's return to Europe after two decades.