German soccer chiefs on Thursday issued a vehement denial of a newspaper claim that Bayern Munich star Bastian Schweinsteiger was the international footballer involved in a betting scandal.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has been connected to the betting scandal by a Munich newspaper
The Munich-based TZ newspaper said it would report on Friday that Schweinsteiger, 21, was one of three Munich-based players involved in placing suspiciously high bets on matches which were allegedly fixed.
"The conduct from sections of the media is completely irresponsible," Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Federation (DFB), told German news agency dpa.
"There are no facts and so long as that remains the case we have to protect our players and our sport. It is primitive conduct and damages the reputation of players, Bundesliga clubs and the German national team."
On Wednesday, Plusminus, an online sports magazine for the respected German television channel ARD, claimed several Bundesliga players, including a full German international, were involved in illegal betting.
The Munich prosecutor's office said it had not released any names to the media.
"The prosecutor's office has not named anyone. We are checking various pieces of information. We do not talk about names," chief prosecutor Anton Winkler said.
"There are still not any accused in this. There are still no suspects."
One source accusations rebuffed by club and country
Schweinsteiger is set to feature at the World Cup
Schweinsteiger, 21, is one of Germany's brightest prospects and a certainty to make Jurgen Klinsmann's final squad for this summer's World Cup finals.
The TZ was the only media outlet to name him in connection with the investigation, although the rolling news channels gave high prominence to the report.
The TZ also named two players from the second division 1860 Munich club, Australian international Paul Agostino and Dutchman Quido Lanzaat, in connection with the scandal.
TZ said all three players had been questioned by investigators.
Bayern Munich general manager Uli Hoeness was enraged, saying Schweinsteiger had told the club "he had never bet a euro on a match in his life". Hoeness said the club had briefed a lawyer and the newspaper faced "a claim for damages of millions of euros".
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Lanzaat meanwhile denied the accusations against him. "I have nothing to do with it and my club have said the same thing. I have never bet on a match involving my team before and will never do so in the future," the Dutchman said.
It was unclear whether that betting referred to second and third division matches which are currently the subject of a criminal investigation being handled by prosecutors in the western city of Frankfurt.
With the World Cup finals beginning on June 9, host nation Germany could face another match-fixing scandal just as it is shaking off an affair involving a referee who admitted fixing matches.
In January 2005, referee Robert Hoyzer, 26, blew the lid on a match-fixing scandal when he admitted to fixing four matches for financial gain.
The tainted official had been taking bribes from a Croatian mafia circle based in Berlin and he named and shamed others involved in the match-rigging ring.
Last November, Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in jail and another former referee, Dominik Marks, was given an 18-month suspended sentence. Hoyzer is currently appealing his sentence.
Berlin-based Croat Ante Sapina was found guilty of masterminding the match-fixing operation and sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison.