MADRID (AP) — The turmoil in Spanish soccer’s second division continued on Tuesday with the rescheduling of a suspended match and the release of an audio recording in which a player suggests his team may not play to win.
The final-round match between Deportivo La Coruña and Fuenlabrada — which was first suspended then canceled and then rescheduled — changed dates again. It will now be played on Friday instead of Wednesday after a request by Deportivo, whose players had been on vacation following the team’s relegation.
The Spanish soccer federation moved the match to Friday so Deportivo can have more time to get ready, and guaranteeing that all players can be properly tested for the coronavirus.
The new change of date came as Spanish media released audio of what appears to be Deportivo captain Álex Bergantiños suggesting that the match result may be prearranged.
Bergantiños said in the recording, apparently sent to his teammates, that club lawyers advised the team to show up with at least eight professional players to avoid losing points, but that he didn’t know “what kind of game it would be,” or whether they would talk to Fuenlabrada players and maybe after “1-0 we just sit back, I don’t know.”
Deportivo president Fernando Vidal downplayed the audio, saying it was a private conversation in which the importance of playing the game was being highlighted. He said there was never an intention of prearranging the result.
Bergantiños said in the recording that the president told him that the only hope for Deportivo to avoid relegation was if Fuenlabrada was demoted instead by the sports courts for its failure to comply with health protocols, which allegedly led to the suspension of the July 20 match after some of its players tested positive for COVID-19.
Fuenlabrada later released a statement saying it was a victim and that it would forward the audio recording of Bergantiños to local authorities.
Fuenlabrada needs at least a draw against Deportivo to grab the final spot in the promotion playoffs, a position that currently is held by Elche. Deportivo has only pride to play for in the game as it was demoted after the final-round results.
The league’s decision to suspend only the game affected by the outbreak and not the entire final round ignited complaints and threats of legal actions by other clubs that felt they were disadvantaged.
The promotion playoffs have been on hold until the Deportivo-Fuenlabrada match can be played.
Earlier on Tuesday, one of the teams already in the playoffs, Almería, said a second player tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the club to temporarily suspend its practice sessions.
The second-division playoffs are set to end on Aug. 23.