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WPS signings spark furor in France
by Paul Kennedy, March 25th, 2009 7AM
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[WPS] Both the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom, who will play in Sunday's Women's Professional Soccer game, are awaiting clearances on their respective French signings, Camille Abily (Los Angeles) and Sonia Bompastor (Washington), whose move to the United States has touched off controversy at their French club Lyon, in part because their departure comes on the eve of the UEFA Women's Cup semifinals.

As MLS clubs have found, signing foreigner players is one thing and having them in uniform often be something else. The transfer of professionals require the release of an international transfer certificate (ITC) and those without U.S. citizenship or some form of residency status must obtain work visas -- a process that has slowed in recent years in the aftermath of 9/11.

"For players that teams were expecting to have on their rosters, everything has gone smoothly," WPS chief operating officer Mary Harvey said. "There have been a few hold ups for ITCs - not visas. Some ITCs have come in a little late because the teams only signed them at a later date. [The Sol's Chinese striker] Han Duan's ITC just went through, for example. There are a few last-minute issues. There's been a situation that we've gone to FIFA with regarding the French players, but we hope to get that resolved. We are working double time and I'm hoping everyone will be set to go on opening day."

The case of Abily and Bompastor revolves around Lyon's reluctance to part with them. The players have argued that they are amateurs -- Lyon has paid Aliby as a youth coach and Bompastor worked for OL Images, its TV arm -- and therefore they cannot be kept from leaving.

OL women's coach Farid Benstiti criticized their decision to leave.

"We'll have to cope with the departures of Camille Abily and Sonia Bompastor," he told  "They abandoned us. It's not a sporting disappointment, it's more from a human point of view. This is it. I won't say more. I just think that one must finish what we started. It's a life principle. Individual interest must not be the only thing."

(One of the two newcomers Lyon has brought in for its semifinal series against Germany's Duisburg, beginning Sunday, is former Ohio State star  Lara Dickenmann.)

Abily isn't the Freedom's only foreigner whose status remains up in the air.

Erin McLeod, the former SMU and Penn State goalie from Canada, is still working out her visa situation.

Australian Lisa DeVanna, considered one of the top young strikers in the world, has been training with the Freedom but has not yet signed a contract.

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