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Football: HOOPS MILAN SNUB; Italians scrap USA clash.

Byline: ROBERT MARTIN

CELTIC fans on both sides of the Atlantic were left raging last night after AC Milan pulled out of their glamour friendly with the Hoops in Cleveland later this month.

The Italians, who lifted the European Cup at Old Trafford last month, were due to face Martin O'Neill's side on July 25 but now want to delay their arrival in the States for a further few days.

They will, though, go ahead with plans to play Barcelona in Washington on June 30 and then Juventus in New York three days later.

Celtic's other Stateside clash with Manchester United in Seattle on June 22 has not been affected.

But the move has enraged Hoops fans from North America and beyond who had already forked out cash to go and see their side.

The Parkhead club only confirmed the news on their website yesterday evening but Larry Brown, West Coast Representative of the North American Federation of Celtic Supporters clubs, revealed they had been informed the game was off a week ago.

And he would now like to see the Hoops take some kind of court action against the Italian club for reneging on the deal.

He said: "I was at a convention of Celtic Supporters clubs in Victoria, British Columbia yesterday and I can tell you they are not just disappointed, they are raging.

"A lot of boys, those on the East Coast especially, bought pre-paid flights, hotels and tickets for that game, and the majority of them were non- refundable.

"It has cost a lot of people a lot of money, and I think it is a breach of contract by Milan."

Martin O'Neill's men will now return to Glasgow after the United match with their pre-season plans seriously disrupted.

It is the second time Milan have pulled out of a clash with Celtic in America. A proposed charity match in New York for the victims of the 9/11 attacks was also shelved.

A Milan source said last night: "The club are concerned about starting their preparations too early and are afraid of what the heat might do to the players."

That excuse cut little ice with Celtic fans' chief Peter Rafferty, who said: "It seems like pretty short notice and they don't seem to have given a good reason for it.

"Obviously the fans who have paid money to go will be extremely disappointed."

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NO SHOW: Milan's Paulo Maldini
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:406
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