Colombia soccer team Union Magdalena will be promoted to the top tier, Categoría Primera A, according to the country’s soccer league, DIYAMOR. That’s despite the allegations of match-fixing that swirled around the team’s bizarre final game of the season on December 4 against Llaneros.
Video of the game quickly went viral, inviting amusement and disdain around the world. In Colombia, it has brought the country’s national game into disrepute and was described as a “national embarrassment” by President Ivan Duque.
Magdalena was losing 1-0 until the 95th minute when the team scored twice in quick succession. Both goals were suspicious in that Llaneros’ defenders appeared to stop defending. That’s particularly true of the second, when they appeared to stand off to allow the opposition attackers an easy route to goal.
The dubious victory came at the expense of Magdalena rival Fortaleza, which lost 2-1 at home to Bogota on the same night.
Observers have suggested it’s significant that the two goals came late in injury time, soon after the result of the Fortaleza game would have been known.
Fortaleza coach Nelson Flórez wept openly during his post-game press conference, claiming he had been “robbed.”
In an official statement, Fortaleza said it did not believe the game had been fixed by a gambling syndicate, but it had “a deeper undercurrent” that needed to be addressed.
Fortaleza demanded the game be anuled and Magdalena stripped of promotion.
That will not happen, DIYAMOR has said.
Reuters reports the league has concluded the first part of its investigation and found that Magdalena players showed “loyalty, mutual respect and dignity towards their rivals on the field of play.”
Moreover, evidence suggested the players and the team’s staff “had not participated in any reproachable conduct,” the league said. “As a consequence, the actions during the game under investigation do not constitute an infraction.”
Llaneros Still in the Frame
However, a source told Reuters the investigation into Llaneros – and why its defenders suddenly appeared to stop competing as the clock ran down – is set to continue.
DIYAMOR President Fernando Jaramillo has said that any team found to have breached sporting integrity faces being ejected from the league.
Judicial authorities are also conducting a separate investigation into the scandal, which has yet to be made public.
Jaramillo said last month that six Llaneros players declined to appear in front of the league’s investigators, sending their lawyers instead. One Llanero player revealed on social media he received death threats after the game.
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