Men's soccer players to honor slain journalist

Updated: August 27, 2004, 10:15 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Iraqi and Italian soccer players planned to wear black armbands on their uniforms during their Olympic bronze medal game Friday in honor of an Italian journalist killed in Iraq.

The International Olympic Committee approved Iraq's request and Italy's delegation was proposing that all its athletes be allowed to wear the armbands Friday.

"We hope the pain will unite us,'' said Italian Olympic Committee spokesman Massimo Fabricini. Italian athletes were also competing Friday in water polo, volleyball and basketball.

Militants in Iraq killed freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni, after kidnapping and threatening to execute him if Italy did not withdraw its 3,000 troops from Iraq.

Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera said Friday that it had video of the killing but did not show it. The Italian ambassador to Qatar, where the network is based, watched the video and informed the government, an Italian official said.

In addition to the armbands, the bronze medal game in the northern city of Thessaloniki will be preceded by a minute of silence, according to a spokesman for soccer's governing body, FIFA.

Iraq's coach, Adnan Hamad, had appealed for the journalist's release after his team's semifinal loss to Paraguay on Tuesday.

"I want to tell them to let him go back to his family and to his country to be free,'' he said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press