Super Cup to go ahead despite Puerta tragedy

August 29, 2007

MADRID, Aug 29 (Reuters) - The European Super Cup is designed to be a celebration of a new season of continental football, but the showcase event in Monaco has been overshadowed by the tragic death of 22-year-old Sevilla player Antonio Puerta.

Spanish football, and Sevilla in particular, have been stunned by the loss of the versatile left-sided midfielder/defender who collapsed during his team's first league match of the season against Getafe on Saturday.

UEFA agreed to Sevilla's request to postpone their Champions League qualifier against an AEK Athens side also mourning after the death of at least 63 people in fires in Greece, but Friday's Super Cup against European champions AC Milan is set to go ahead after Sevilla said they plan to play the match.

The possibility of cancellation remains, but UEFA expressed their hopes that the event might be turned into a tribute for one of the most promising young players in Spanish football.

'We have spoken to the clubs involved in Friday's game and it goes ahead at the moment but we will transform the game into a tribute to Antonio Puerta,' UEFA's William Gaillard, special advisor to president Michel Platini, told Reuters.

'Of course we will respect the Sevilla players if they feel they do not want to play. But we hope that this can be a dedication to their former team mate.'

UEFA Cup holders Sevilla have begun the new season in style, crushing Real Madrid 6-3 on aggregate to win the Spanish Super Cup, their fifth trophy in 15 months, and beating AEK in the first leg of their third round Champions League qualifier.

They beat nine-man Getafe 4-1 in their opening league match on Saturday with in-form winger Jesus Navas and strikers Luis Fabiano, Frederic Kanoute and Alexander Kerzhakov all getting on the scoresheet.

However, Puerta's death has cast a pall over the club from which it will not be easy to recover.

Super Cup opponents AC Milan were one of the first clubs to express their grief at Puerta's death, saying they were ready to postpone or cancel the match if necessary.

The European champions looked in good form when they won 3-0 at Genoa in their opening Serie A match last Sunday with Brazil playmaker Kaka scoring a brace.

Ronaldo is unlikely to start but could be pushing for a place on the bench after recovering from a hamstring strain.

Midfielder Massimo Ambrosini, who scored the opener in Genoa before picking up a knee injury, looks to have shaken off the knock but Paolo Maldini is definitely out after knee surgery during the close season ruled him out until late September.

Milan coach Carlos Ancelotti expected a very tough encounter against the Spaniards.

'They are a team that are used to playing finals, they have a good group with experience and quality,' he told reporters.

'At the moment they are one of the best teams in Europe. They have done great things without players of the very highest level.'