The Football Association of Ireland has denied claims which were made that the Irish international players were paid not to tackle Argentinian and Barcelona star Lionel Messi in a friendly match in Dublin in 2010. The story and its claims are "baseless" according to the FAI.
In a friendly which was organised to officially open the new Aviva Stadium, Argentina faced Ireland in a one-off match. A report has however also claimed that the match was organised to compensate for the incident between France and Ireland in a World Cup play-off in which Ireland were knocked out after Thierry Henry infamously handled the ball.
The FAI released a statement which read: "The Football Association of Ireland completely refutes the allegations made about the Republic of Ireland v Argentina friendly match in La Nacion as baseless."
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It continued: "The match in question was organised by Kentaro and announced by press release prior to the World Cup play-offs in 2009. We are consulting our legal advisers in relation to the article, and will be taking further steps."
The report claims that after the friendly had been arranged by FIFA and the two nations, Messi's club Barcelona were unhappy with the arrangement as they were concerned over the injury risk it posed to their star player. Apparently an insurance quote for the game reached $5 million and it was therefore decided to pay the Ireland players to go easy on Messi.
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The allegations claim that the Irish players were paid $10,000 each for the game which was cheaper than the insurance quote.
These reports and claims come from an Argentinian newspaper called La Nacion however they do not back up the claims with any proof. The claims however are another black spot on an already difficult year for the FAI in which their chief executive John Delaney confirmed the reports which stated that the FAI received a €5 million pay off from FIFA after the Henry handball.
Ireland were denied a penalty shoot out in the second leg of their match with France and eventually missed out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
These claims however seem to most certainly be "baseless" as when one watches the game back, the Irish players certainly put in some heavy tackles during the game. Messi was eventually substituted in the game after 56 minutes. The FAI is now considering taking legal action for these claims. The story is certain to draw some interesting conclusions in a year which has seen the demise of FIFA and its corrupt President Sepp Blatter.