CUSTOMS officers called on the headquarters of the Soviet women's rugby team in Cardiff yesterday after reports that the tourists were penniless and had been selling cut-price vodka and caviar in an attempt to pay their expenses during the inaugural women's World Cup.
The women were said to have travelled through Heathrow airport's green channel with five 5ft cases of liquor, but at South Glamorgan Institute yesterday customs investigators found it almost impossible to break the language barrier and eventually left.
It is understood that no charges will be brought against the team, who had only enough money for their air fares and hoped to barter their goods for food during the week-long tournament in South Wales. But half of their goods went missing at Moscow airport and since arriving they had resorted to rationing their breakfast meal and sold some jerseys and sportswear to raise cash.
Yet even while Customs was questioning them, offers of help were coming in. Companies and individuals contacted the party with offers of cash, meals and transport. A pie manufacturer and a restaurant owner came forward to give the girls a square meal, an anonymous donor offered £1,200 towards their expenses and the mother of Bess Evans, the Welsh women's hooker, donated £100.
Such acts of kindness came too late to build up the Soviet women's stamina for yesterday's match: they lost 28-0 to the Netherlands - but showed a profit on touchline sales of souvenirs.
"Women's World Cup: Vodka salesgirls have shorts, will travel." Guardian [London, England] 9 Apr. 1991