Seedy stuff from la Liga’s lower reaches

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Now the fairly Philistine La Liga Loca is dimly aware of three great works of Spanish fiction - Marca, Don Quixote and, er, Don Quixote.

But it seems that a fourth may be added to this very short list.

And it goes under the somewhat cumbersome title of ‘The Spanish Second Division’.

Over the past few days an unruly gang of match-fixing stories have elbowed their way past the Kaká and Eto’o headlines like a granny in a supermarket queue.

Regular readers with long, long memories may remember the news from the end of 2008 of Real Sociedad president, Iñaki Badiola, producing a tape which he claimed had the then Tenerife player, Jesuli, admitting taking a 6,000 Euro bung to lose a game against Málaga at the end of the 2007/08 second division season.

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“This is absolute nonsense,” blustered Málaga owner Lorenzo Sanz in response. “Badiola is the cancer of football.” Accusations then wormed out of the woodwork on fishy goings-on at other league games in the same season.

Unfortunately, La Liga Loca is unable to shed any light on whether any of these allegations turned out to hold water.

To date, naff-all appears to have happened in any investigations - if they ever took place, that is.

Instead everything seems to have been swept under a carpet the size of Portugal.

But the rancourous reek of rigging returned at the end of May with El Mundo publishing claims that members of Segunda A side Castellón were offered money to lose April’s league clash against promotion-chasing Real Zaragoza.

The paper reports that a player informed Castellón manager Paco Herrera about the attempt to buy his footballing favour. Herrera then told his club bosses, who passed the information onto the authorities.

El Mundo also published claims from fellow second division side Gimnastic that members of their squad had been offered fees to lose encounters - including one whopping offer of 300,000 Euro (promptly turned down).

There's yet more skulduggery afoot in the Spanish Segunda B division (a regional version of England’s Division 1) with allegations from Cadíz that offers were made to two of their footballers to help lose the play-off clash against Real Union, the side that shot to fame last season for knocking Real Madrid out of the Spanish Cup.

For the record, Cadíz prevailed in the two-legged tie and won promotion.

One of the squad members involved in the allegations, Dani Cifuentes, claims that he was offered 90,000 Euro to give away a penalty. The player says that the proposition was made through his agent (who is also, notes Marca, a Real Union shareholder).

“An unknown man called him with an offer that I told him from the beginning I would not accept,” says the right-back, who reported the incident to his club bosses.

Cadíz goalkeeper Kiko Casilla also claims to have been offered 120,000 Euro to throw the crucial promotion clash.

On Tuesday, Cadíz club president Antonio Muñoz confirmed the stories from the club camp and said that he had the name of the person trying to buy off members of his squad.

“We know who it is,” said Muñoz. "I spoke to this person and told him to his face that what he was doing was wrong. Unfortunately, I cannot say anymore. I can’t give names as I have no proof."

Stories of incentive payments are hardly new in Spanish football. But they normally concern sums of money paid to players of sides with nothing at stake to win games and are especially common during relegation battles.

Getafe president Angel Torres claimed last week that “We were the only team not to be given incentives on the last day – and we stayed up.”

Indeed, there are strong arguments at all levels in Spain that these bungs are no worse than standard win bonuses, paid for by a third party.

However, these stories of players being offered money to lose games is a different kettle of footballing fish.

While it is heartening to hear of honest footballers coming forward to report attempts to buy them off, there has to be concern over the number of players who may be less keen to turn down significant amounts of cash in encounters where there may be little else to play for.

The matter needs a thorough investigation by Spain’s footballing authorities. “Every year, you hear more and more about people buying or trying to buy matches,” complained Mario Bermejo, a player for second division promotion-chasers Xerez.

But strangely, La Liga Loca does not hold high hopes that an in-depth study into match-fixing will take place anytime soon.

After all, who knows what else it would uncover?


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