MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti sports commentator Mikhail Smirnov.) -- Vitaly Astafyev, captain of the Latvian national team, who scored in the game, said in an interview with a Riga newspaper that the Russians had tried to bribe Latvian players and football officials before their world cup qualifying match which ended in a 1:1 draw.
The Russian Football Union reacted quickly. Its president Vitaly Mutko described it as an insult and promised to investigate the matter with the help of the Latvian Football Federation. At the same time, he made it clear that if the allegations were not proved, the Union would do its best to ensure that Astafyev, now player of Kazan-based Rubin, would not play in Russia. Mutko also tried to forecast future developments by suggesting that the player would try to shift the blame to journalists "who misunderstood him."
The Union's vice president Vladimir Bauer believes that there may be a political element in the scandal. He does not rule out that it was started to cause an argument at the official level because the consequences of such statements are easy to predict.
The secretary general of the Latvian Football Federation described the reports in the press as absurd and flatly denied the rumors that the Federation's officials or players had been offered bribes. The author of the scandal appears confused. He has already said that he did not say anything specific about bribing attempts and only confirmed that he had heard such rumors. He apologized to the Russian Football Union, as well as the players and coaches of the Russian national team for his rash statement, which caused the outrage, and said he was sure that "emotions will calm down soon and I will be understood correctly."
Now the question is whether FIFA will want to investigate. The organization is known for its thoroughness, especially when it probes into allegations of matches that may have been bribed. Moreover, if its findings are irrefutable, it sanctions both parties. So the final outcome in the chorus of the uttered, misunderstood and refuted is yet to be heard...