Wednesday 22 November 2017

We didn't take €10k to go easy on Messi - Kilbane

FAI denies Argentinian match was linked to €5m for Henry handball

John O’Shea and Lionel Messi challenge for the ball during the Ireland vs Argentina match
John O’Shea and Lionel Messi challenge for the ball during the Ireland vs Argentina match
FAI boss John Delaney and Emma English at the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

The FAI has denied allegations that a match with Argentina was linked to the €5m FIFA pay-off following the infamous Thierry Henry handball that ended Ireland's dream of qualification for the 2010 World Cup.

Argentinian newspaper 'La Nacion' has alleged the friendly was agreed as part of the deal.

It also claimed that the now-deceased head of the Argentinian FA, Julio Grondona, suggested that each of the Ireland players would be paid $10,000 not to cause an injury to star player Lionel Messi.

The Argentinian FA could not afford the $5m insurance for Messi and Grondona's solution was to pay Giovanni Trapattoni's men to ensure that Messi would get through the game unscathed, the newspaper story claimed.

It did not provide any proof of the alleged payments.

One Irish player who took part in the game, Kevin Kilbane (inset), last night said the alleged payments to him and his teammates were "news to me" adding: "I certainly didn't take any money."

"There was no suggestion around the game that we were to stay clear of Lionel Messi and of course none of the players received any money as payment regarding this.

"It's quite poor. There have been a lot of allegations over the last month or so aimed at us. Mud sticks, I suppose, and it's not nice when these sort of allegations are being thrown against the players," he told TV3.

"It's basically questioning us as professionals, it's questioning us as people as well," he added.

"It does seem to me like someone has come up with a story or a theory. Two and two make 10, I suppose. That's the only thing I can think of regarding it.

"It seems to me they have looked at what's happened over the last month, they have looked at the allegations that have been made against us and they have come up with a theory. Again, I totally refute it, totally deny it," he added.

Details of the €5m FIFA Henry pay-off to the FAI emerged earlier this month, with the FAI Chief Executive, John Delaney, saying it was used to help fund the Aviva Stadium project.

Messi took part in the first international football game at the Aviva - a 1-0 victory for the South Americans. The Barcelona star was substituted 58 minutes into the match.

"The Football Association of Ireland completely refutes the allegations made about the Republic of Ireland v Argentina friendly match in 'La Nacion' as baseless," an FAI statement said.

"The match in question was organised by (international sports agency) Kentaro and announced by press release prior to the World Cup play-offs in 2009.

"We are consulting our legal advisers in relation to the article, and will be taking further steps."

Grondona had been blamed by FIFA for signing off on a $10m payment from the South Africa FA to an account controlled by disgraced former official Jack Warner.

FIFA has been mired in controversy since the arrest of a number of officials as part of a US-led investigation into alleged corruption.

The scandal led to the resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who denies any wrongdoing.

Irish Independent

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