Spanish media has erupted with reports that police are looking into claims by an assistant referee that he’s been pressured to favor Real Madrid in the upcoming El Clasico against Barcelona.
The linesman was apparently among the officials selected for the first La Liga clash between Real and Barça this season -– set to take place on November 21, at the Santiago Bernabeu.
While the linesman’s identity remains unknown, there are suggestions that the man attempting to pull his strings is Jose Angel Jimenez de Morales. According to reports on Catalan radio, Morales told the unknown official that he should “try to control the game in a way that thwarted the interest of one of the clubs, Barcelona.” The linesman was instructed that failing to do so would result in the end of his career as a match official.
Morales, a member of the Technical Committee of Referees in Spain, has vehemently denied the reports. The former referee, who served in the Spanish top flight between 1985 and 1991, has called the accusations against him “Kafkaesque,” although he stopped short of taking legal action against the accuser.
Even if the allegations are never proved true, they’ve already cast a pall over one of the most anticipated matches in the annual football calendar. In a year that’s seen its governing body, FIFA, rocked to its core by corruption, this is just about the last thing that world football needs right now.
A spokesperson for FC Barcelona said that if the allegation is confirmed, “It will be a dangerous story in terms of the prestige of La Liga.”
Meanwhile, the show must go on: Real Madrid will be in action against Celta Vigo on Saturday while Barcelona takes on Eibar on Sunday.