Suspected Match-Fixers With Mafia Ties Arrested In Soccer Scandal

It turns out that a 12-0 game raises suspicions

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Apr 05, 2017 at 12:45 PM ET

Match-fixing is often subtle, which is why every major sporting association, from FIFA to the NBA, has hired outside contractors to monitor the gambling market for irregularities. Global connectivity and the proliferation of live-betting all present sophisticated challenges in detecting dishonest manipulation of game play.

And then there was Saturday’s match in Spain’s third division, between Barcelona’s B team and Eldense, a 12-0 drubbing which has led to five arrests, including the club’s general director, two coaches, and two players.

One regular Eldense starter who was left on the bench for the game, Cheikh Saad, has been vocal in protesting the result, claiming to El Mon de Rac1 that four players were involved and he was “on the verge of coming to blows with these players” in the locker room:

“Half an hour before playing the game against Barcelona B I was starting, but before the game  they made us leave the line up. They told a teammate this game was fixed and if he wanted to play he should not score goals. They didn’t ask me. The coach knew something, I’m sure, and the players too.

“The coach told me to come on and I told him I did not want to. I also told my teammates on the bench that they shouldn’t go out on to the pitch if they didn’t want their names to be stained.”

David Azin, who also did not start the match, also spoke out about the result, telling one publication, “Because I knew which players were involved, it was evident to me that they put on a show and you could see they were not even giving it 50 percent.”

Saad told Spanish reporters that he overheard talk that the halftime score had to be 8-0, which of course it was. He said there was even an audio recording to that effect, which is now in police custody.

“We are talking about big amounts [money], they would not have earned that amount in their whole lives playing in this division,” Saad said, per ESPNFC, before adding, damningly: “Apparently, it has not been the first game this season where that has happened.”

That account included this staggering note: Eldense has had three presidents, seven coaches, and has used 52 players in 32 games this season, which is staggering turnover for one campaign.

Spain’s specialized gambling unit initially arrested two Italians, coach Filippo di Pierro and a club investor, Nobile Capuani. El Confidencial in Spain reported that Capuani has ties to a known gambler with a criminal record, École di Nicola, and that the two were expelled from an Italian club, FC Jumilla, and allegedly had ties to the Italian mafia ‘Ndrangheta.

“At the very least we must investigate it because there are certain links to an Italian group that has the look of what may be indications of an international betting ring when it comes to fixing matches,” Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish league, said.

The president of Eldense’s managing board, David Aguilar, acknowledged that suspicions had already been rampant, noting a recent game against Cornella with irregular bets and three penalties.

“For the past four weeks, we have seen strange things like we saw in the game in Cornella,” he said. “Bookmakers suspended betting for our game last week because of those irregularities and I don’t understand why they didn’t do the same thing this weekend.”

Aguilar said he was “tremendously ashamed” by what he saw, and the players outside the fix are apologizing on behalf of their teammates.

(Translation by False Start)
“With regard to this situation, I ask for forgiveness from the fans because they want us, at a minimum, to play our remaining games. It is necessary to demand responsibility from the players and the coach can’t let some players play with their heads down and everything will be overcome because the 12-0 is not real and everything will come to light. Go Eldense!”

As always, a bit of subtlety goes a long way in all matters.