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World Cup plays Playboy glam game

Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rooney are facing unexpected competition at the World Cup from a global army of scantily-clad Ophelies, Olgas and Oanas.

tabloid Updated: Jun 16, 2006 20:14 IST

Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rooney are facing unexpected competition at the World Cup from a global army of scantily-clad Ophelies, Olgas and Oanas.

Never heard of them?

You won't find them on the pitches, but they're making vital contributions in the cut-throat circulation battle waged by the world's non-sports magazines to grab and hold football fans as regular readers.

Flamboyant Hugh Hefner's multi-million-selling Playboy has left nothing to the imagination in their sales push by gathering 14 models from around the world, putting them into skimpy tops and placing them on the front of its USA edition.

France's Ophelie Marie, Olga Urashova of the Netherlands and Oana Bercaru from Romania are three members of the team as are Estela Pereira of world champions Brazil with Asia represented by Pani Lee.

A quick glance around the news stands inside Berlin's cavernous Hauptbahnhof central railway station sees the German edition also featuring the girls, except this time, they are even more lightly-clothed.

"Playboy created an international editorial team to come up with ideas that would be globally relevant for our international editions," spokeswoman Lauren Melone informed.

"In 2002, Playboy Brazil featured a world team with Brazilian models. It was a success both locally and internationally.

"Due to the popularity of this pictorial and football globally, the international team thought a pictorial of this nature, including models from around the world shot at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, would make for an exciting and sexy feature for many of our international editions."

But like the 32 teams at the World Cup, the magazine, which claims a worldwide readership of 15 million, faces stiff competition.

At the Hauptbahnhof store, shelf space is dominated by the World Cup.

A sober biography of German coach Jurgen Klinsmann lies side-by-side with skipper Michael Ballack's.

Ballack even dominates technology magazine SFT with 13 pages given over to the new Chelsea star promoting televisions, laptops and all things digital.

It's a heavy workload, but at least he keeps his clothes on unlike Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko who is semi-naked with wife Kristen over five pages inside GQ, the cover of which is handed over to German goalkeeeper Jens Lehmann dressed in a white suit.

Kristen tells GQ: "Sometimes, 'Sheva' is not assertive'" which will worry fans of Chelsea for whom he has just signed.

If these publications are too racy, readers can try Spiegel magazine which has a Planet Football special edition while National Geographic's front page headline screams 'Why the world loves football'.

But it's Playboy that the fans seem to prefer in Berlin.

"I bought the magazine so I can look at the pictures as we go around Germany," said one Swedish fan.

"But I don't think my wife would like it if I took it home with me."

First Published: Jun 16, 2006 13:03 IST