Thrashed 12-0, Spanish club fears match-fixing

Indo Asian News Service

Elda (Spain), April 3 (IANS) A third-tier Spanish football team was shaken on Monday by allegations that several of its players had been involved in alleged match-fixing that led to an astonishing 12-0 rout.

Club Deportivo Eldense based in the southeastern town here decided to temporarily suspend all sporting activities and terminate its contract with a foreign investment group as a result of the suspicious score.

"It could be that the Italian investment group was behind this," said Eldense's president David Aguilar, during an interview on Onda Cero radio station in which he called on the police and La Liga to investigate the case.

"I saw weird things: lack of intensity, only one card, players who didn't go in for a tackle," he added.

Saturday saw Eldense suffered this humiliating defeat against FC Barcelona B -- the Catalan powerhouse's youth team -- which mathematically relegated it to the fourth-tier league following a catastrophic season that was full of upheaval.

Seven coaches, 52 players employed and three presidents in only one season indicate that the club was in the throes of a downward spiral.

Before the allegedly fixed game, the club would have had to win all remaining six matches of the season and score a large number of goals to avoid relegation.

Now it languishes at the bottom of the league, shrouded under a dark cloud cast by the suspicion of criminality.

Just 30 minutes into the game, Barca B was up by 7-0, amazingly, Eldense refused to make a single substitution throughout the entire match.

One of Eldense's players, Cheikh Saad claimed he knew which players had allegedly been bribed and threatened to reveal their names during a radio interview with RAC 1.

"There are four players who are implicated in the match-fixing. I don't care what happens, but whenever I can, I will provide their names," Saad said.

Saad added that he almost got into a fistfight with his teammates in the locker room.

"Half an hour prior to the match I was on the starting team, but right before the game some of us were told we wouldn't be starting," Saad claimed.

According to Saad, the coach later asked him to enter the pitch, but he refused after overhearing that the match had been fixed for betting purposes.

"I told him I didn't want to, and I also told my teammates on the bench to not go into the field if they didn't want their names to become tarnished," he added.

Only two of the players who started the season with Eldense remain at the club; during the winter transfer window, scores of players from 12 different countries arrived, mainly Italians.

Eldense won three out of the 26 matches it has played this season, with four ties and 19 defeats, as well as an astronomically high number of goals against: 56.

With six more games left in the season, it needed to win all of the 18 points in play to avoid relegation, but Saturday's thrashing ended all hope of an improbable comeback.

Match-fixing in Spanish football is not without precedent. Players and club executives alike were brought to trial in February 2017 for the alleged fixing of a game between Betis and Osasuna, two first-division teams, at the end of the 2013-2014 season.

The judge charged three Betis players with sporting corruption after they allegedly accepted 650,000 euros ($693,000) each in bribes from top Osasuna executives in exchange for manipulating the season's last two games.

They allegedly received 400,000 euros from that amount as an incentive to win the next-to-last match against Valladolid, Osasuna's direct rival at the time in the race to avoid relegation, which ended in a 4-3 win for Betis.

The three are also accused of accepting 250,000 euros as a bonus for throwing the game against Osasuna, who won 2-1 but was unable to stay in La Liga's top division as it ended the season in 18th place.

--IANS

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