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Lucky charm for Fadiga as theft probe dropped

SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) -- Senegal midfielder Khalilou Fadiga, who was accused of stealing a gold necklace in a South Koean jewellery shop, was given a gold pendant as a good-luck gift by sympathetic clerks in the shop, Senegal officials said on Monday.

Fadiga, 27, was interrogated by police last week over suspicions that he had stolen an 18-carat heart-shaped gold necklace worth $245 from a jewellery shop in Taegu, one of the World Cup venues, five days before Senegal's opening match with France on May 31.

But he later returned the necklace and the case ended without any criminal charges, allowing Fadiga to play in the opening game of the month-long tournament last Friday, said police officer Kim Kun-il.

Two days before the game, in which Fadiga helped Senegal to a historic 1-0 win over world champions France, a salesman in the jewellery shop sent a letter and a pig-shaped gold pendant, wishing him good luck in the games, a Senegal official said.

"I was so sorry for Khalilou Fadiga that I couldn't sleep well that night. I really hoped that the episode would not escalate into a serious event," Lee Seung-youl, the salesman said in a letter obtained by Reuters.

"Carrying this (the pendant) with you will bring you good luck and success. There is a Korean proverb 'after a storm comes calm,'" the letter said.

Kim, the police officer, said the two sides shared a view on the "cultural misunderstanding."

The Senegal official said Lee's friendly gesture encouraged Fadiga and his team colleagues before the group A match.

Fadiga said later the theft had been a "stupid" practical joke stemming from a bet with teammates.

"The police didn't even know who did it and I was the one who went and gave it back. For me the matter is over. I'm sorry about all the fuss that it caused, but it was just a silly joke," Fadiga told Reuters after the opening match.

Fadiga plays for French first division club Auxerre and is a key member of the Senegal side. He scored two goals in the qualifying campaign to help his country reach the finals.

Copyright 2002 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.






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