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A FATAL ERROR BY IGLESIAS? Zaragoza owner stares down the barrel
- Updated: 18 February, 2012
Supporters of Spain’s big three clubs have seen little to surprise them over the last week. Barcelona’s fans have watched their team drop yet more points on the road, before virtually sealing their now obligatory place in the Champions League quarter finals. Real Madrid supporters watched their team fall behind again at home before racking up enough chances to make it into double figures against Levante. And Valencia followed up a home league victory with an equally comfortable success at the Britannia Stadium. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
At the other end of the table, Real Zaragoza’s long-suffering fans have also had another week very much in keeping with their recent tumultuous history. After a home defeat against Rayo Vallecano the previous weekend appeared to have hammered the final nail into their Primera Liga coffin, a totally unexpected 2-0 win in Barcelona last Sunday against an Espanyol side with European aspirations offered just the faintest glimmer of a miraculous escape from the relegation trapdoor.
Sadly even this rare triumph, a first in the league since mid October, has been overshadowed by events off the pitch, although one of them may yet turn out to be the chink in the armour of despised owner Agapito Iglesias for which the club’s supporters have long been praying. On Wednesday local newspaper ‘El Periodico de Aragon’ reported that he was being investigated over some decidedly dodgy goings on regarding the money paid by Athletic Bilbao for midfielder Ander Herrera last summer. According to journalist Eduardo Bayona, at least one of the cheques handed over by the Basque club ended up being spent on the purchase of a plot of land in nearby La Almunia.
Not a problem, one would think, although perhaps not the best use of a rare substantial source of income when your club is heavily in debt. However when it transpires that the company who sold the land to Real Zaragoza Estates is called ADL, and the two parent companies are both owned by a Mr A.Iglesias, it is little wonder that the Spanish taxman is now undergoing a thorough investigation into the sale.
Bayona’s revelations, although contested by Iglesias who is promising legal action against his paper, have also apparently been the final straw for three players who are still owed money from last season. According to Marca’s Pepe Carpintero, they are taking the club to court to try and get their money, and one can hardly blame them given Wednesday’s developments. Meanwhile the association which represents the club’s small shareholders, who were unsurprisingly completely unaware of this latest instance of financial skulduggery, are studying developments very carefully. The hope is that Iglesias’ latest impropriety has given them the opportunity to remove him from the club using the same legal strategy which minority shareholders at Real Betis employed to oust equally unpopular owner Manuel Ruiz de Lopera.
Whilst the legal wrangles continue, the strangest story of the week surrounds the vice president of a Catalonia based Zaragoza supporters club and a bag of whistles. For several weeks the club’s most loyal supporters have engaged in an ‘agapitada’, which involves whistling during the 32nd minute of each and every home and away game in protest at Iglesia’s continued involvement in the club (the significance of the timing is that the club was founded in 1932).
However when Alfonso Serrans Solano arrived at the Cornella El Prat on Sunday armed with the means to enable him and his fellow supporters to air their discontent, he was duly taken to one side by police and had his details taken. There followed a very nervous few days with the threat of a 3,000 euro fine and a six month ban from all football grounds hanging over him, before someone saw sense and decided there was no need to press charges under the country’s ‘anti violence’ statutes. However in a way the incident has further underlined the extent to which the opposition is united against Iglesias, with offers of support flooding into Solans which would probably have paid his fine twice over had the authorities been foolish enough to take the matter to court.
Meanwhile the Zaragoza players continue to say all the right things about eventually escaping the bottom three, although their task still seems to be a mountainous one. Ironically next up are Real Betis on Monday night, a club still heavily in debt thanks to the Ruiz de Lopera era, but very much on the up now that nightmare is behind them. With tickets available for between just five and fifteen euros for friends of season ticket holders, it will interesting to see just how many people share the players’ optimism.Follow @icentrocampista