Wednesday, 7 September 2016
W'cup Qualifier: El Salvador soccer players claim they were offered bribe to beat Canada
In a bizarre press conference on Monday, a group of El Salvadorian team members played an audio recording of a man claiming to offer the players money by the minute if they beat Canada, or fall to them in a one goal loss. Anything else would void the deal.
Nelson Bonillo, El Salvador's captain, says the players were vehemently against accepting the bribe.
A fan of El Salvador holds up objects with his nation's colors during a 2018 World Cup qualifier soccer match against Mexico in San Salvador, El Salvador on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. (AP / Salvador Melendez)
"With respect to what we just heard, we want to make clear that we're against this anything like this act. We want to be very transparent in front of the public about anything happening with the national team and want to disassociate ourselves from whatever bad impression this event could cause," he said in a statement.
CONCACAF said in a statement that "is aware of the claims made by El Salvador's national team in relation to their upcoming qualifying match for the 2018 FIFA World Cup" and is looking into the matter.
The offer comes with Canada needing a blow-out win to have any hope of advancing to the final stage of qualifying for the next World Cup.
The bribe is alleged to have been offered by a Honduran, whose national team sits in second place in the group standings and would benefit from a Canadian loss.
El Salvador currently sits at the bottom of the qualifying group with three losses and two draws. They also have the worst goal differential in the group and have been eliminated from advancing to the next stage.
Mark Rogers, who made seven appearances for Canada and worked as an interim assistant coach for the team, says he's unsurprised by El Salvador's public airing of the bribe attempt.
"They probably receive these types of offers regularly," he told CTV Vancouver. "And by highlighting it, they are hoping they can bring light to this problem and take it straight up to the top."
However, he admits he finds it odd to hear of a bribe being made to help players perform better.
Despite the public outing of the offer, the Central American country has faced a corruption case involving soccer players before.
Three years ago, El Salvador players raided the homes of 11 players in six cities and the country's soccer federation suspended 22 players during an investigation into alleged match-fixing by the national teams.
Eleven players and two foreign businessmen were eventually acquitted in March 2015. However, 14 players were given lifetime bans and eight others were handed suspensions ranging from six months to five years.
Honduras and El Salvador also have a tumultuous history when it comes to the beautiful game.
In 1969, the countries declared war on each other after El Salvador won the best-of-three series to qualify for the 1970 World Cup.
The games had been marred by fighting amongst fans, and following the final game, El Salvador cut diplomatic ties with Honduras. El Salvador declared war two weeks later, with the brief conflict eventually being dubbed the "Football War."