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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Zapatista rebels woo Inter Milan
Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos
Subcomandante Marcos promised Milan would not be thrashed
The captain of Inter Milan football club says he would be willing to take up an invitation for the club to play a team of Mexican Zapatista rebels.

The Italian club have received a letter from the indigenous movement, based in the southern state of Chiapas.

Rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos asked Inter to bring the match ball because the Zapatistas' ones were punctured.

Captain Javier Zanetti said: "It is not a problem for me if [the club] accept the challenge. I'd be willing to go."

The letter bore the signature of Subcomandante Marcos, the elusive Zapatista leader known for his trademark balaclava and pipe.

It was formal and precise, but contained a touch of the wry humour that is the leader's hallmark, says BBC correspondent Mark Duff in Milan.

Rigorous training

"I challenge you to a match against a team from the Zapatista national liberation army," it said, "at a time and a place to be determined."

"Given the affection we have for you, we're not planning to submerge you in goals," the letter went on.

Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti
Zanetti has expressed his support for Chiapas people

"As we wait for your reply, we'll continue with our rigorous training regime."

Inter - one of Italy's biggest and most famous clubs - have built links with the Zapatistas by funding sports, water and health projects in their area of operation in Chiapas.

Team manager Bruno Bartolozzi paid a visit to a village in Chiapas last June, bearing donations from the club and its owner, Massimo Moratti. During the trip, he was approached by a Zapatista commander.

Zanetti, an Argentine, also wrote a letter to express his support for the rebels' "struggle to maintain your roots and fight for your ideals".

The club told the BBC News website that no decision had been made on whether to accept the challenge.

The Zapatistas are demanding greater autonomy and indigenous rights. Their campaign has been largely peaceful since January 1994, when at least 150 people died in clashes.

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16 Nov 02 |  From Our Own Correspondent

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