‘MADRID: Suspended president of the Spanish football federation Angel Maria Villar, who is under investigation for corruption, tried on Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of next year’s World Cup in Russia because of government interference.
Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.
“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.
The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government. All member federations have to administer their affairs in an independent manner and ensure that there is no interference from third parties.
FIFA said on Friday that “a joint FIFA-UEFA delegation will be sent to Madrid shortly to monitor and assess the situation in the association”.
FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.
Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.
Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.
His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favours in exchange for votes.
Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.
“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.
However, there has been little concern shown in Spain both by leading politicians and those involved in the game.
“I can’t contemplate this scenario. I am absolutely convinced that Spain will go to the World Cup in Russia and, moreover, they will win it,” said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.