OFF THE POST: Austrians turn on own team

A group of Austrian fans have started a petition that so far yielded 4,000 signatures urging the Austrian national team not to participate in the 2008 European Championship it is co-hosting with Switzerland. "This is not about criticizing players or coaches," said Michael Kriess, one of the petition instigators. "We simply say that the way Austria is playing is an insult to our, to every fan's aesthetic understanding of the game." The petitioners say watching Coach Josef Hickersberger's team is detrimental to one's mental health.

"It means you fall into a dismal state of depression when watching a match featuring the Austrian national team," they say on their Web site, which sells T-shirts reading: "Initiative for an Austria-free Euro 08 supporter."

The proceeds go toward an Austrian academy for soccer officials.

Austria stretched its winless streak to eight games this month with a 2-0 loss to Chile at home.

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