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Is Money Changing Hands in Spain?
ESPN Soccernet, May 22nd, 2007 3:30PM

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As he does every week, ESPN Soccernet's Phil Ball gives his impression of the weekend in Spain -- and what a weekend it was. From spectacular and unexpected one-sided thrashings to closely contested, edge-of-your-seat matches capped by late winners, it was a weekend showcasing everything that's been so special about this season in La Liga.

In spite of the bright stuff on the field, Ball says the Spanish press has been whispering about money changing hands prior to important matches. Believe it or not, this isn't illegal, as long as the team passing along incentives, called "maletines" (suitcases), wants that team to perform well. It's illegal to pay another team for tanking a match.

Rumor has it that two weeks ago, Gimnastic de Taragona coach Paco Flores dropped starting goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri ahead of a match against Levante, because Bizzarri was under suspicion of having taken bribes from relegation-threatened Levante to perform poorly. Rumor also has it that Barcelona sent a few suitcases Recreativo Huelva's away (though to no avail as Real won 3-2) prior to their home match against Real Madrid. A Recre draw or victory coupled with a Barca victory against Atletico Madrid would have put the Catalans back in pole position to win the league. Meanwhile, he says, the relegation battle, which involves several Basque sides this year, will more than likely draw some shady behavior in the coming weeks. Expect a few suitcases to change hands, Ball says, to say the least.

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