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El Salvador Team Make Match-Fixing Allegations Ahead of World Cup Qualifier

The El Salvador national team have alleged that they were offered financial incentives to achieve a favourable result in their World Cup qualifying match against Canada.

by Jim Weeks
Sep 6 2016, 2:46pm

The El Salvador team pose ahead of a game earlier this year // PA Images

In both football and international relations, El Salvador and Honduras share a troubled and at times violent past. Famously, in 1969 the neighbouring Central American nations fought the 'Football War', a conflict that broke out after their trio of qualifying matches for the 1970 World Cup. Hostilities lasted for just four days, but it is estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 people lost their lives in that time.

Almost half a century on the pair find themselves in the same group for World Cup 2018 qualifying, though both games between them have passed without causing an armed conflict.

There is a sense of tension and unease once again, however, after the El Salvador national side alleged that they were offered financial incentives to achieve a favourable result in their World Cup qualifying match against Canada. The beneficiaries of this would be Honduras.

El Salvador have already been eliminated from the CONCACAF qualifying section, having picked up only two points from five games. Canada can still progress to the final qualifying round, but they must beat El Salvador and hope that Mexico defeat Honduras in Mexico City.

Crucially, the Canadians will also require a goal-difference swing of five in their favour, so a heavy win over El Salvador will almost certainly be required if they're to progress to the final phase. Given Mexico's dominance of the group – they have won all five games – Honduras know that defeat on away turf is a real possibility, and their hopes would then lie with El Salvador keeping the Canadians at bay.

This, the El Salvador team claim, has led to the offer of a 'bribe' from a Salvadoran businessman. On Monday the players staged a press conference at which they made the allegations, playing an 11-minute recording in which they are offered varying sums of money, from $30 a minute for a win to $10 a minute for a 1-0 defeat.

Investigative journalist Declan Hill, who was at the press conference, told the BBC:

"The entire team came in with their coaches and said they had been approached on Saturday. They played an 11-minute conversation with the attempted match-fixer.

"He was offering each player a variety of money per minute depending on the result they could get. The most they would have got for allegedly fixing the match would have been about $3,000 per player."

Speaking at the press conference, El Salvador captain Nelson Bonilla said his side had no interest in taking the money.

"In reference to what we heard, we want to make it clear that we are against anything of this kind. We want to be transparent about everything that has happened with the national team."

According to The Guardian, Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Grafica has named the alleged match-fixer as Ricardo Padilla. The businessman does not believe he has done anything wrong, however, as his offer was an incentive to win or avoid heavy defeat, not to intentionally lose the match.

"Let them investigate, I'm not worried," Padilla is quoted as saying. "Those who want to see it as something bad can see it that way, and those who want to see it as something good, then they can too."

The concluding games take place today (Tuesday 6 September), but will be played two hours apart. With the Canada vs. El Salvador match kicking off two hours before the tie in Mexico City, Honduras will know what they need to do – if anything – to secure a spot in the final phase of qualifying.

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