Veron ready to don rock star’s role

»Argentina's Juan Sebastian Veron is ready to transform himself into a rock star ahead of the World Cup and is desperate to meet Nelson Mandela at the South Africa tournament kicking off next month.

Midfielder Veron, going to his third finals, was among 31 players who sang "Live for Life united" at the 2002 tournament in Asia.

"If I'm asked I'd be prepared to sing on the South Africa World Cup record," Veron said. "I could sing a rock (number), something from the Rolling Stones would be good. But I wouldn't dare (try to) move like Mick Jagger. He's unique."

The 35-year-old, who also played at the 1998 World Cup in France but was overlooked for the 2002 finals in Germany, said it would be a dream to meet former President Mandela.

"I hope I can embrace Nelson Mandela. It would be incredible because he's one of the last strong personalities of history. He fought for ideals, equality. It would be an honour to greet him," said Veron.

Riquelme to watch it with a tinge of disappointment

»Argentina's 2006 World Cup playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme has expressed his disappointment at missing out this year's finals in South Africa but maintains he was right to turn his back on coach Diego Maradona.

Riquelme has not played for Argentina since Maradona took charge in late 2008 and although he quit the team when the coach criticised aspects of his game in public, the gifted player insisted that was not the sole reason for his self-imposed exile.

"I feel good with what I did. There were reports that I had stepped aside over a comment by the coach and I say: 'One has to be pretty stupid to stay out of a World Cup over a remark'," Riquelme said.

"This goes deeper, there's another question," said Riquelme, adding that he would never reveal the true motives of his problems with Maradona. "(But) when I see the team lining up on the pitch, apart from always wanting the national team to win... I'm going to feel very sad and I'll say to myself: 'I should be there'."

Brazil get the nod from sports scribes

»Five-time winners Brazil are favourites to lift the World Cup trophy in South Africa this July, according to a poll of international sports journalists.

Brazil received 28.3 percent of votes to edge out second-placed Argentina with European champions Spain and Fabio Capello's England making up the top four.

The poll, conducted by the International Sports Press Association, was made up of 200 journalists from 97 countries. Argentina and Barcelona World Player of the Year Lionel Messi took almost half the votes to finish as tournament top scorer.

Isinbayeva certain she will fly again

»Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva, who decided last month to take an indefinite break from athletics, has not ruled out competing again this year but definitely plans to return by 2011.

"I have taken a break but of course I will train and start my preparations for 2011 and will continue my normal life," the 27-year-old said.

"I don't know if I will compete (this year). I have not decided. First I will have a rest and then if I am hungry for competition I will do some but now I don't promise anything for this year," added the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion.  The multi-world record holder failed to win a medal at the world indoor championships in Doha in March. It was the second consecutive world championships at which she had performed poorly. She did not clear a height at last year's outdoor edition in Berlin.