Scandal Tarnishes Spanish Soccer′s Squeaky Clean Image | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 07.12.2008
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Scandal Tarnishes Spanish Soccer's Squeaky Clean Image

In Spain, no major players have ever been banned and no clubs have ever been relegated for fixing games. There have occasionally been rumors of attempted bribery, but practically nothing has ever been proved. Until now.


Money has allegedly changed hands in Spanish soccer in exchange for thrown games

Spanish soccer has always taken pride in avoiding the kind of match-fixing scandals that have so afflicted Italy and other countries. But this week, La Liga has been shaken up by two separate allegations of match-fixing.

It all started on Monday, when former Tenerife playmaker Jesuli (full name: Jesus Mora Nieto) told Madrid daily El Mundo that he and his second division teammates had each received 6,000 euros ($7,606) for losing the last game of the 2007/8 season against Malaga, who needed to win in order to gain promotion.

"I can't be sure that they (his Tenerife teammates) took it, but if it (the money) reached me, then I suppose that it also reached them," he said.

Tenerife lost 2-1 and Malaga were promoted ahead of Real Sociedad, whose president, Inaki Badiola, has been complaining about "something strange" ever since.

Badiola claimed on Monday that Jesuli's "confession" has vindicated his six-month campaign to have the Malaga-Tenerife match investigated.

Clubs deny allegations

Jesuli's allegations have been dismissed as false by the Tenerife players and by Malaga president Fernando Sanz, the former Real Madrid defender and son of 1990s Real president Lorenzo Sanz.

Jesuli claimed on Tuesday -- after being threatened with legal action by Tenerife and Malaga -- that his claims of the previous day were "inexact."

On Wednesday the Spanish federation sent Jesuli's declarations to the public prosecutor, but without making any official recommendations themselves.

A second possible episode of match-fixing came to light on Wednesday, one that may involve Spanish soccer federation president Angel Maria Villar.

Symbolbild Korruption Geldscheine

Spain's soccer federation chief is implicated in one case

Television channel Popular TV aired a recording of an alleged conversation between Levante captain Inaki Descarga and then club president Julio Romero, the day after Levante had lost 2-0 away to Athletic Bilbao on the last day of the 2006/7 season, a result which allowed Bilbao to avoid the first ever relegation in their proud history.

The audio recording allegedly has Descarga saying to Romero: "Now they all want their bonus. It is in the safe deposit. If you see the game, you would not say that it was fixed."

Romero allegedly replies by saying: "Whatever is said, we have to say that we went to win the game."

The former Levante president then adds that: "We have made sure that, in the federation, Villar knows as well." Romero then hints that Levante might receive some favors from Villar, for having helped his former club.

Villar -- president of the federation since 1988 and re-elected unopposed two weeks ago -- played for Athletic Bilbao between 1971 and 1981. He is also a vice-president of both FIFA and UEFA.

Levante were already relegated and the players - with Descarga as their leader - had been complaining for months about not having been paid by Romero.

The team worst effected by the Bilbao-Levante result was Celta Vigo, who were relegated in spite of beating Getafe on the last day.

As expected, all parties involved - Villar, Bilbao, Descarga and Romero - have all denied the allegations, and Romero has threatened legal action against Popular TV.

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