Spanish soccer still in turmoil over suspended 2nd-tier game

Sports

A couple walk past the closed stadium of Spanish 2nd division club Rayo Vallecano in Madrid, Spain, Thursday May 14, 2020. Soccer players in Spain are currently allowed to undergo individual training sessions at their team’s training camps, with longer group sessions and full squad practices expected in the coming weeks if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t get worse. La Liga president Javier Tebas has said he hopes the league can restart on June 12. (AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID (AP) — Chaotic, contentious and comical — the end of the Spanish soccer season hasn’t gone smoothly at all.

Officials have been exchanging accusations, clubs have been demanding justice and local authorities are upset.

The turmoil was created by the suspension of a match in the final round of the second division because of the coronavirus. Official statements are being released almost by the minute, with stances apparently being changed by the hour.

“We ask that the second division be expanded to 180 clubs and that we gain promotion, just because,” amateur club Racing de La Guía wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “In addition, we also demand a couple of cider boxes per person, and several chorizo-stuffed bread rolls to help us withstand the pressure. (Let’s see if it sticks…)”

Everyone was asking for everything after officials decided to suspend the July 20 match between Deportivo La Coruña and Fuenlabrada after players and some staff members of Fuenlabrada tested positive for COVID-19.

Most clubs wanted the entire final round to be suspended, but officials postponed only the game affected by the outbreak to avoid the risk of more infections.

Even more complaints and demands were made after the Spanish league decided to cancel the game altogether, saying it would be nearly impossible to wait for all Fuenlabrada players to recover. The team had 28 people infected by the weekend.

Fuenlabrada, fighting for a berth in the promotion playoffs, said in an initial statement that it would accept the officials’ decision. That prompted the league to release another statement thanking the club, which later denied that it had agreed with the decision by the league, which eventually said it was the club that offered to cancel the match.

Numancia on Monday used its own official statement to complain about the “unusual succession of statements” released by the league and Fuenlabrada. It expressed its “indignation” with the league’s recent decisions and called for an expanded second division next season.

Deportivo, the 2000 Spanish league champion, had already asked for a second division with more clubs next season, which would allow it to avoid relegation.

Rayo Vallecano was another team releasing a statement on Monday, demanding that it be given a chance to play in the promotion playoffs following the cancellation of the Deportivo-Fuenlabrada match. Fuenlabrada had a chance to make it to the playoffs if the game was played.

The Spanish league had already been at odds with the country’s sports council, which accused the league and Fuenlabrada of breaching health and safety protocols. They both denied any wrongdoing — through statements, of course.

The back-and-forth accusations also put Spanish league president Javier Tebas under scrutiny, with clubs hinting that he might have favored Fuenlabrada because his son works at the Madrid-based club. Other allegations against the league official also surfaced in local media, though none have become formal accusations.

Tebas and Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, the top soccer officials in Spain, were often at odds until the sports council intervened to call for a peace treaty between them amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It had worked, and soccer in Spain had been at peace for a while. The Spanish league finished successfully with Real Madrid winning the title.

But at the first sign of trouble amid the pandemic, it was all back to the Spanish chaos from before.

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