Gimnasia players deny getting death threats before defeat
November 15, 2006 6:49pm CST
Gimnasia-La Plata players have denied receiving death threats from their own fans on the eve of a 4-1 home defeat by Boca Juniors. "They firmly denied having been threatened or pressured by the club's barra brava (organised group of hardcore fans)," public prosecutor Marcelo Romero told reporters after interviewing the players on Wednesday. "We will continue investigating." The investigation began after sports daily Ole alleged that a group of armed Gimnasia fans entered the team's headquarters on Nov. 7 and demanded they lose to Boca. The supporters claimed a win for Gimnasia would have benefited their bitter rivals Estudiantes, who are challenging Boca for the Argentine title. The following evening, Gimnasia conceded four goals in 45 minutes as they went down to Boca. It was the latest twist in the match which began on Sept. 10 but was called off at halftime when referee Daniel Gimenez said he had been threatened in his dressing room by Gimnasia president Juan Jose Munoz. Gimnasia were leading 1-0 at the time. Boca's eventual win sent them four points clear of Estudiantes. "Given the seriousness of the allegations I thought I would hear different types of declarations," said Romero, adding he would continue his investigation by interviewing the referees and the Ole journalists. Asked if he believed the players, he said: "I can't say publicly if I believe them or not." Romero said the players had confirmed that a group of about 15 to 20 members of a Gimnasia supporters club visited the team's headquarters, known as Estancia Chica (the small Farm), on the eve of the match. CLOSE RELATIONSHIP However, the players did not see any weapons, he said. "The declarations of all the players were identical," Romero said. "But one player said he felt uncomfortable, bothered by the situation, and it was the first time it had happened in his career." Organised groups of hardcore supporters, known as barras bravas, often have close relationships with the directors of Argentine clubs and sometimes visit the players during training. The fans' influence has been blamed for the violence that has plagued Argentine football and reached a peak in the last few months. Gimnasia president Munoz said he had not given the fans permission to visit the players but added that the players had not complained to him about the incident. On Sunday, journalists covering Gimnasia's match at home to Velez Sarsfield complained they were attacked by Gimnasia fans. They said they were forced to go into the stadium via a public entrance because the press door was shut without warning or explanation. The Argentine Apertura championship has been plagued by trouble since it began in August. Three matches have been interrupted by crowd trouble and a fourth was called off at 48 hours' notice because of a row over a court order banning hooligans from attending.