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U.K. Coach Axed After Comments

Glenn Hoddle was fired as England's soccer coach Tuesday after reportedly saying the disabled were "paying for the sins of an earlier life."

His three-year stay ended amid public condemnation regarding his remarks about reincarnation attributed to him by the Times of London on Saturday.

While organizations for the disabled were the first to call for Hoddle to go, Prime Minister Tony Blair joined other lawmakers and media in assailing the comments.

Hoddle was dismissed after meeting with the Football Association, the governing body of English soccer.

Hoddle, who is threatening to sue the Times, has denied making the remarks and insists he was misinterpreted in the interview.

But even Blair called the comments "very wrong," and sports minister Tony Banks said Hoddle's position was "untenable."

As pressure mounted on Hoddle to quit, he said Monday he saw no reason to resign.

"I'm not going to resign over this because at the end of the day I didn't say those things," Hoddle said in a TV interview. "It couldn't be further from the truth from what I believe about the handicapped and the disabled. The work that I've done with them over 25-26 years is there for everyone to see."

While Hoddle insists his comment was taken out of context, he has yet to precisely spell out what he said about the disabled during the disputed interview.

"More than anything, I am dreadfully sorry and very sorry that this has caused sadness to other people," he said. "But at the end of the day, I made the mistake and I want to put the record straight and say that these people are not being punished for their sins."

The flap comes 10 days before England plays World Cup champion France in an exhibition game at Wembley Stadium.

Among the possible coaching successors are former national coach Terry Venables and the FA coaching director Howard Wilkinson.

Hoddle had been criticized even before this dispute. His player personnel decisions were questioned in the media and he has been blamed for England's poor showing during qualifying for the 2000 European Championship. England is in third place in its group behind Poland and Sweden.

Hoddle's strong Christian beliefs prompted ridicule in some newspapers. He was mocked for enlisting a faith healer before the World Cup to help players recover from injuries.

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