San Salvador (AFP) – Members of El Salvador’s national team say a businessman offered them bribes to ensure their World Cup qualifier against Canada on Tuesday helps Honduras make it through to the next round.
At a press conference hosted by El Salvador captain Nelson Bonilla, the group played an audio recording they said was of Salvadoran businessman Ricardo Padilla offering them bribes to fix the match, local media reports said.
In it, the man identified as Padilla can be heard offering the players up to $2,700 each to make sure the outcome of the match allows Honduras to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
El Salvador currently sit last in Group A in the North American, Central American and Caribbean region’s qualifiers.
They have two points, against four for Canada, seven for Honduras and 15 for Mexico.
Mexico have already secured their place in the next phase, but only one other team will go through with them.
Honduras were due to play in Mexico on Tuesday.
Padilla, the former president of Salvadoran club Alianza, was allegedly acting on behalf of an unnamed Honduran millionaire who feared Mexico would score a big victory over Honduras and Canada a similar win over El Salvador.
That would put both Central American countries out of the running, with Canada making it through on goal difference.
“The proposal is the following: $30 per minute played if you win the game. That comes to $2,700 if you play the full 90 minutes,” the man identified as Padilla says in the audio recording, according to Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Grafica.
“That’s what I paid at Alianza, and this is the same. OK? Do you understand?”
He then goes on to outline different payment plans for other potential results: $20 per minute for a draw, or $15 per minute for a 1-0 loss.
“It’s designed so that even if you’re losing 1-0, you make sure the score doesn’t go up. Do I make myself clear? What we don’t want is a rout,” he says.
“It’s a favour to the Honduran team.”
The players gave the press conference on Monday evening at their hotel in Vancouver, where they play Canada in the final fixtures of the fourth round of qualifying.
Another Salvadoran paper, El Diario de Hoy, reported that Padilla acknowledged making the offer, but denied a Honduran millionaire was behind it.
“I’m nobody’s intermediary. The proposal was personal, because I’m tired of everyone beating us. The bit about the millionaire businessman was a joke,” he said.
The allegation is the latest in a series of corruption scandals tainting world football.
El Salvador also found itself at the eye of the storm in 2013, when 14 national team players were given life bans for fixing matches over the course of four years.