RIGA 's Vitalijs Astafjevs, captain of Latvia's national football team, shocked the international sports community when he said this week that a group of Russians offered Latvian football players large sums of money to lose last week's game against Russia.
In an interview to Sporta Avize, a Latvian newspaper, Astafjevs said that he, his fellow players and officials from the Latvian Football Federation were offered bribes to lose the World Cup qualifying match.
"I can only say that money was offered both to the leaders of the Latvian Football Federation and some players contacted by the Russian representatives," he said.
Asked about the sums offered, Astafjevs, who scored Latvia's goal in the 1:1 draw against Russia, refused to specify but said that they were "impressive."
"Such things exist in football. Latvia's national team has not had such a case in the past, and I am sure that the outcomes of our games will be decided only on the football pitch also in the future. The present generation is playing fair football," he said.
The comments have already reverberated like a bombshell, with both Latvian and Russian football officials denying any knowledge of match-fixing.
Latvian Football Federation President Guntis Indriksons told the Baltic News Service that "didn't possess information about such cases," while a junior officials said it was the first time he had heard of such rumors.
Russian soccer officials were outraged by Astafjevs' charge and called upon the Latvian player, who happens to be an ethnic Russian, to back up his claims with evidence.