KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING: Add the name of Armando Collado to the little black book featuring the likes of Dan Tan, Wilson Raj Perumal, the Sapina brothers and other assorted villains in football’s chamber of matchfixing horrors.
Not that Collado ranks as high in the league table of notoriety of some of the above but a man whose name pops up around suspect games in the World Youth Cup, Olympic qualifiers, CONCACAF Gold Cup and Champions League clearly has made a mark.
His case shows that suspensions by sports bodies are comparatively ineffective, underscoring the need for greater government involvement in what is,in truth, a battle with organised crime.
Armando Jose Collado Lanuza was a defender and midfielder of Nicaragua/El Salvador background. He played for Nicaragua’s national team and for a variety of clubs including Real Esteli, Alacranes del Norte (formerly Nejapa FC) and America Managua.
In 2009, when his career was halted by serious injury, he ‘crossed the line’ after apparently being compromised by Perumal, the notorious runner for southeast Asian gambling rings.
A string of suspected matches have been linked to Collado, starting with a friendly between Nicaragua and Guatemala on September 4, 2010, in Miami. Collado’s involvement would have gone unreported except that one of the players was not paid. He went to the Nicaraguan federation (FENIFUT) which extracted confessions from the others in return for an amnesty.
Even before the disciplinary inquiries had been concluded Collado’s name was ‘out there.’
In August 2010 he was photographed in Salt Lake City in discussions with players from the Panama club Árabe Unido in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
His known El Salvador links also stem from 2010.
Under investigation, among other games, are two defeats the national team suffered in the United States that year: a 2-1 defeat by the US in Tampa on February 24 then by a 1-0 defeat against DC United in Washington on July 19.
The following January 2011 Collado was suspended from all football involvement for life by the Nicaraguan federation (FENIFUT) over the Guatemala friendly. Subsequently FIFA ratified the ban worldwide (and has also banned three Guatemala players for matchfixing).
Not that it made any difference: later that year Collado was alleged, by El Salvador international Lester Blanco, to have sought to fix games in the Olympic Games qualifying competition.
Still under investigation from 2011 is El Salvador’s 5-0 thrashing by Mexico in the Gold Cup in Arlington, Dallas. All the goals came in the second half with Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, now of Manchester United, scoring a hat-trick including a penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Extending the list of suspect matches are El Salvador’s 4-1 defeat by Paraguay in Asuncion on February 6, 2012, and a 2-1 defeat by Venezuela in Merida on May 22 this year.
The first accusations emerged towards the end of July this year when El Salvador defenders Mardoqueo Henríquez and Marvin González were named by local media as having blown the whistle on team-mates for fixing the 2-1 defeat by the US in 2010 at the instigation of Collado.
Gonzalez and Henriquez both denied involvement and national team coach Agustín Alberto Catillo chastised the media for raising the issue while El Salvador were competing in the Gold Cup.
Collado was also alleged to have been the go-between for this year’s Venezuela match fix. Six members of the El Salvador squad were apparently offered $10,000 to arrange a defeat by three or four goals.
The players had driven together in a van from the team hotel to meet Collado at a filling station. He had them hand over their mobile phones to ensure that no-one could record the discussion. A further exchange followed later by Skype.
One of the players, Alianza striker Rodolfo Zelaya, told the local ESPN channel that he attended the meeting “out of curiosity” but no money was handed over because the Venezuelans did not manage the requisite minimum number of goals.
Last week El Salvador’s federation suspended 22 players for 30 days pending the outcome of an investigation being run in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s office.
Attorney-General Luis Martínez said he authorised the seizure of laptops, tablets, mobile phones and computer records. Investigators were studying the bank accounts of not only players but also federation directors and officials. Martinez added: “We are going to publish all the irregularities around fixed matches. It’s serious, very serious.”
The suspended players (most of whom have denied wrongdoing) are Luis Anaya, William Osael Romero, Ramon Sanchez, Christian Castillo, Eliseo Quintanilla, Miguel Grenadian, Miguel Montes, Dagoberto Portillo, Rodolfo Zelaya, Victor Turcios, Carlos Romeo Monteagudo, Dennis Alas, Alfredo Pacheco Mordecai Henriquez, Marvin Gonzalez, Carlos Carrillo, Darwin Bonilla, Rodrigo Alejandro Martinez, Reynaldo Hernandez, Ramon Flores, Benji Villalobos and Emerson Umana.
Eight played for El Salvador against Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup, These included veterans Gonzalez (83 caps), Alas (81), Romero (78) and Sanchez (77) who are among the most experienced internationals in El Salvador’s history.
Federation president Carlos Mendez said the the allegations varied between players suspected of acting as go-betweens, players who took money, players who did not play but tried to persuade team-mates to throw matches and players who knew about the situation and did not report it.
Attempts had also been made to “influence results” of the El Salvador team at the FIFA World U-20 Youth Cup in Turkey between June 21 and July 13. El Salvador lost 3-0 to Turkey, beat Australia 2-1 and were eliminated after losing their last game 3-0 to Colombia.
The Turkish connection was the one which led to inclusion of Rodrigo Martínez among the suspended 22. Members of the under-20 squad reported a meeting with him shortly before the tournament.
The former defender of 11 Municipal and UES, now playing in the second division for Brasilia, has denied all allegations, saying: “I don’t know why I was accused. I never even played for the national team and was only ever called up once for the squad.”
Martínez also denied having been a go-between between Collado and national team players, saying: “We were never in the squad together and I don’t know him. I know only that he played in our Primera league but that’s all.”
One of the other suspended players, protesting his innocence, is Turcios, a former national team captain. He said: “I can’t describe how upset I feel but I will take every step possible to prove my innocence.”
By coincidence, Turcios has played since February 2012 for RoPS of Rovaniemi in Finland. This is the club at the centre, between 2007 and 2011, of the Finnish matchfixing scandal which led to the identification, arrest and jail sentence for Wilson Raj Perumal.
FIFA has requested a full report.
If nothing else, it should put new momentum into world sport’s attempt to awaken the support of governmental judicial and security services in the fight to beat the fixers.