Tuesday December 2 2014
Match-fixing spectre looms over La Liga

With charges due to be brought this week regarding the alleged fixing of a Levante-Real Zaragoza game, Dave Redshaw explains what it’s all about.

In the next few days Spain’s anti-corruption prosecutor is due to file charges against 30 people in an alleged case of match-fixing involving Levante and Real Zaragoza. Under investigation is a Primera game on the final day of the 2010-11 season between the two sides at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium, which Zaragoza won 2-1 with goals from current Atletico Madrid captain Gabi, thus securing the three points needed to avoid relegation.

According to reports in Spain, the documents have already been prepared and will this week be submitted to a court in Valencia, where the game was played.

Players, Coaches and directors from both teams plus former Zaragoza President Agapito Iglesias [pictured, right] were questioned recently by prosecutor Alejandro Luzon, who is examining whether the Levante players received money from Zaragoza to throw the game and ensure Deportivo La Coruna were relegated instead.

It is alleged that the Zaragoza players had money paid into their accounts, some of them around €90,000, which was then removed and was later, suspects the prosecutor, used to pay the Levante players. However, Iglesias disagrees with this version of events and says the money was a bonus paid by the club.

“I’m relaxed about it but annoyed at being accused, although I have to go through with this. We’ve done nothing wrong,” he told reporters after testifying, while all the Zaragoza players who appeared also claimed to know nothing about any match-fixing.

However, they did confirm that the money paid into their accounts was done so as a supposed favour to Iglesias, who later had it returned to him in cash, yet they claimed not to know the purpose of such movements. Gabi also admitted that the entry of several thousand euros into his bank account at the time did not correspond to any bonus payment, while at the same time telling the inquiry ‘I was doing what the club told me to do’.

Besides Gabi and Iglesias, there were also declarations from a number of former Zaragoza players, including Angel Lafita, Jorge Lopez, Braulio, Carlos Diogo and Ivan Obradovic, as well as ex-Levante defender Sergio Ballesteros. Nine players who played for Levante in the 2010-11 season also testified: Hector Rodas, Vicente Iborra, Xavi Torres, Christian Stuani, Felipe Caicedo, Miquel Robuste, Manuel Reina, David Cerrajeria ‘Cerra’ and Juan Francisco Garcia ‘Juanfran’.

Dubbed ‘the game of shame’ in the Spanish media, Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera, who was playing for Zaragoza, is another who could be dragged into the affair, although there is no suggestion he or his teammates knew what the money was for or were knowingly involved in any unlawful activity. Javier Aguirre, current Japan national team boss and Zaragoza Coach at the time, could also be called to give evidence.

If found guilty the defendants could face anything from six months to four years in prison, while the clubs could be looking at a ban from all official competition. Iglesias, meanwhile, continues to deny wrongdoing.

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