That Barcelona’s lower-tier squad beat its latest opponent isn’t a surprise. That the B squad did it by a margin of 12-0, though? That piqued the interest of Spanish investigators, who arrested five people from losing side Eldense, including head coach Filippo Vito di Pierro, general director Nobile Capuani, two players and an assistant coach. All of them have been charged with “corruption between individuals” and “belonging to an organized crime group,” according to Spanish reports, while investigators look into whether they fixed the match. (There is no indication that Barcelona engaged in anything untoward.)
The allegations first emerged after Saturday’s match when Eldense player Cheikh Saad hinted on Twitter that something wasn’t right. 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.
Saad wasn’t the only player to speak out either. Not long afterward, Eldense defender Emmanuel Mendy seconded Saad’s accusations during an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, when he said Ruiz Casares approached him about fixing the game.
“He asked me if I was in and how much I wanted and if I wasn’t in then I wouldn’t play,” Mendy said Tuesday morning (via the BBC).
Teammate David Azin told Germany’s Welt TV, that he had also heard that Ruiz Casares was talking about the plan before the match.
“Our assistant coach told another already in the hotel that this match must be lost with a margin higher than five,” Azin told the network (via ESPN FC). “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.”
Eldense’s head coach became roped into the allegations when Ruiz Casares gave an interview to Cadena Ser to defend himself, noting, “In principle the orders came from above, from the coach.”
Ruiz Casares, who was arrested in connection to the matter, continued, “I didn’t know what to do. I was between a rock and a hard place. I didn’t say a word on the bench, I made no substitutions and I didn’t send anyone out to warm up. Then I resigned from the club.”
Of the players implicated, only two have been publicly named — midfielders Nico Chafer and Mike Wayne Fernandez Greenwood, who was on loan from Spanish first-division side Valencia.
A spokesperson for Valencia told ESPN FC the club is “aware of the current situation,” and that “the player is entitled to a presumption of innocence.”
“We have zero tolerance regarding this issues,” the spokesperson continued, “and we will wait to see what happens.”
On Wednesday, however, Spanish soccer’s governing body appeared to announce it had enough evidence to initiate what it called an “extraordinary disciplinary procedure” in a statement.
“The competition judge considers there is enough rational evidence to begin extraordinary disciplinary proceedings against Club Deportivo Eldense, and all its members, players, staff and the club delegate that were included in that match report,” the statement said, calling the result of Saturday’s match “striking.”
The president of Eldense’s managing board, meanwhile, also appeared shocked by the result. David Aguilar, who has not been implicated in the scandal, said he suspected something was off during halftime when he tried to gain access to the locker room. At that time the team was already down, 8-0. However, Aguilar said he was barred from entering the facility.
“The management board met on Sunday morning and took the decision to break with the Italian group that runs the club,” he told Spanish newspaper AS, speaking of a group of investors who wielded influence in the club.
“We had doubts about what was happening for two or three weeks,” he continued, calling some decisions about who played, who was on the bench and who was left off the squad at any given fixture “a little strange.”
“This has been the last straw,” he added.