LONDON - A Valencia court has accepted a claim filed by Spanish prosecutors alleging Japan manager Javier Aguirre and 40 others were involved in fixing a match between his former club Real Zaragoza and Levante in 2011, according to reports on Wednesday out of Spain.
Court proceedings are expected to start in February, and the 56-year-old Aguirre, who has vehemently denied the accusations, could be asked to appear in court to defend himself.
Aguirre was Zaragoza’s manager when the team beat Levante 2-1 away at the end of the 2011 season and as a result avoided relegation to the second tier.
Prosecutors alleged the Levante players were paid a total of €965,000 to deliberately lose the game.
Zaragoza first made bank transfers to Aguirre and its players and officials, who then took the money from their accounts and passed it on to the Levante players, reports have said, citing the prosecutors.
Former Zaragoza president Agapito Iglesias and players from both teams are cited as defendants in the complaint.
Aguirre, who took over as Japan manager from Italian Alberto Zaccheroni after the World Cup in Brazil last summer, broke his silence on the matter and protested his innocence during a news conference in Tokyo on Dec. 27.
He has had full backing from the Japan Football Association and ostensibly won the trust of his players after explaining the issue on the first day of a training camp in Chiba Prefecture on Dec. 29.
Since arriving at the Asian Cup in Australia, where Japan is attempting to defend its continental title, Aguirre has been grilled further on the match-fixing issue by the international press.
But on Sunday, before Japan’s first Group D match against Palestine, he said that he would not be discussing the issue and only intended to speak about soccer during the Jan. 9-31 tournament.
“I have already held a press conference to speak about this a few weeks ago and won’t be answering that question,” he said after being asked by a British journalist how glad he was to have the support of the JFA.
“I have been at four World Cups, four Gold Cups and three Copa Americas and in each of those tournaments I have only ever spoken about soccer. That is what I want to do at my first Asian Cup.”
Japan beat Palestine 4-0 and faces Iraq on Friday in Brisbane in its second game of the group phase.