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CAMEROON PROMISES PLAYERS $1 MILLION TO FORGET STRIKE

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Hoping to avert a strike by its World Cup team, Cameroon's soccer federation, with an assist from that nation's government, is promising a nearly $1 million player payoff.

The longstanding dispute between the players and the Cameroon federation came to a head Wednesday, when goalkeeper and captain Joseph-Antoine Bell said the team was considering a boycott of Friday's game against Brazil.The players reportedly have not been paid for two months, and some are upset about broken financial promises that go back several years, Bell said.

According to the country's soccer federation, the government tried this week to placate players with a suitcase full of cash containing more than $500,000. They rejected the offer as inadequate, and the government - through soccer federation president Maha Deher - now says more money is coming, probably an additional $400,000.

The players, clearly upset and angered by the federation's chronic financial woes, want action on their demands, not assurances.

"It's always the same problem," Bell said Wednesday, speaking outside the lobby of his team's hotel in suburban San Francisco. "The players are not happy. They have not gotten their bonuses, their salaries. I know there is a possiblity to arrange everything, to solve the problem. But the players are anxious because nothing has been done."

Deher says the problem stems from the devaluation of Cameroon's currency.

TURN OFF THE JUICE: An Argentine newspaper has some advice for Americans: Stop obsessing on O.J. Simpson and start paying attention to soccer.

"The Yankees," the Buenos Aires paper Clarin wrote, "were there with Simpson like it was a movie - drinking beer, eating popcorn - as if fiction and reality were the same thing."

AFFAIRS OF STATE: Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene has this problem: How to make a getaway from this week's European Summit on the Greek island of Corfu and tend to serious business - watching Belgium play the Netherlands Friday on television.

Much will depend on how long post-summit news conferences last and whether Dehaene can finesse Greek protocol so he is one of the first leaders to fly out of Corfu.

If caught in flight while the game is in progress, he has a contingency plan: His pilots will have the play-by-play relayed by radio from Brussels.

NUMBERS GAME: After assorted surveys showed the World Cup had barely made a dent in American consciousness, tournament organizers finally got some good news. A Roper telephone poll conducted this week showed 84 percent know the World Cup is taking place in the United States, and 44 percent plan to watch some of the games on television.