Marissa Payne Washingtonpost.com THE COACH of a Spanish soccer team who was arrested after allegedly spearheading an effort to fix a match on Saturday has come up with a remarkable excuse to account for the team’s historic 12–0 loss — it’s the winners’ fault for refusing to stop scoring. “The Barcelona players did not respect the code of honor between teams,” Endense’s disgraced Coach Filippo Vito di Pierro told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope (via ESPN FC) on Thursday, referring to Barcelona’s B squad that plays in Spain’s third-tier division and not the reigning La Liga champions. Di Pierro, who Spanish police arrested this week alongside the club’s general director, assistant coach and three players, added: “In fact, our players on the bench requested Barcelona to stop scoring and they would say: I’m sorry, we can’t”.
According to the Spanish tabloid Sport, Barcelona players were disappointed to learn their best result ever may have been because the team’s opponents just didn’t try. Barca B Coach Gerard Lopez hasn’t commented on the allegations, but Barcelona top-tier Coach Luis Enrique shared his opinion earlier this week at one of his scheduled news conferences. “The onus is on Eldense and has nothing to do with Barcelona,” Enrique told reporters (via Spain’s Marca). “[The subject of match-fixing] is a delicate one and one which must be treated with appropriate seriousness. It seems right to me that it is followed up, as we must rid soccer of incidents like this, at the professional level, amateur level or whatever level”. The allegations that certain Eldense officials and players may have fixed the match surfaced shortly after the loss by one of the team’s own players, who hinted on Twitter that something wasn’t right. Eldense midfielder Cheikh Saad called the 12–0 result “unreal” and said, “In the end, everything will come to light.”
Saad later gave an interview to Spain’s COPE radio station, in which he said he knew some players had bet on the match that Eldense would lose by a “very high” margin. In other interviews, ESPN FC reports, Saad specifically accused three teammates and assistant coach Fran Ruiz Casares, who became acting head coach in February, of fixing the game. Soon, other players began to speak out and backed up Saad’s claims that the game wasn’t played honestly. The allegations, which resulted in the six arrests this week, appeared sufficiently convincing to Spanish soccer’s governing body that it initiated what it called an “extraordinary disciplinary procedure” to discuss appropriate sanctions against the team, which now faces relegation out of the third-tier league. The Royal Federation of Spanish Soccer has not yet announced what that punishment might be, however.
In the meantime, those who remain in charge of the club and appear to have no knowledge of the alleged scheme are struggling to salvage the rest of the season. David Aguilar, the president of Eldense’s managing board, announced the club broke ties with a group of Italian financiers that ran the club and against whom allegations have been leveraged of criminal ties, including to the mafia. Those are claims Eldense’s now former general director Nobile Capuani, who was arrested and charged with “corruption between individuals” and “belonging to an organized crime group” this week, denied on Thursday. “Whoever knows me and links me to the Mafia or the Ndrangheta does not understand the Mafia or the Ndrangheta [organised crime in Calabria, Italy], I can assure you,” Capuani told Cadena Cope. “If I had something to do with the Mafia or Ndrangheta, don’t you think I would have been arrested in Italy? I have done nothing wrong.”