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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Sri Lanka handball team vanishes
Sri Lankan handball team
They left their dirty laundry, say German organisers
German authorities say they are puzzled by the disappearance of the entire national handball team from Sri Lanka.

German Sports Exchange Programme organiser, Dietmer Doering, said: "We initially thought the team had got lost in nearby woods while jogging."

But he said a note had been found saying the 23-strong team had gone to France. "We now know they crossed into Italy," Mr Doering said.

"They even left their dirty laundry," he added.

Unauthorised trip

Mr Doering told Priyath Liyanage of the BBC Sinhala service the organisers were feeling extremely let down by the incident.

I am not planning to invite any more teams from Sri Lanka
Dietmer Doering

"This will be the last time we will be doing this. I am not planning to invite any more teams from Sri Lanka," he said.

"The entire team of 23 men, including the coach and the manager, has taken off."

The handball team was taking part in a programme in which teams from both countries visited each other for friendly games.

The sports ministry in Sri Lanka said the trip was not authorised.

Handball is a sport very rarely played in Sri Lanka and the formation of a national team was a mystery, according to the ministry spokesman.

The performance of the team had been poor throughout the tournament.

Mr Doering said that until now the exchange programme had been successful.

"Different sports teams from Sri Lanka have been taking part in the project for nearly 15 years," he said.

Dietmer Doering, Asian German Sports Exchange Prog
"The police and the authorities are very much concerned"

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