Arrested for match-fixing after 12–0 loss, soccer coach blames opponent for scoring too much

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.”