Problems rain down on Racing

Coach Cúper to appear before Neapolitan prosecutors in match-fixing case

Next Monday is going to be a very long day for Racing Santander coach Héctor Cúper. The Argentinean will travel to Madrid to answer questions from members of Naples' public prosecutor's office for anticorruption over his involvement in Operation Golden Goal.

Cúper, who has seen his position in the case change from witness to suspect in a very short space of time, will have to respond to accusations that in 2006 he passed on information about two Spanish Liga matches and another two Argentinean league matches to the D'Alessandro family, a leading player in the Neapolitan mafia.

Then, once he has completed his declaration, he will have to rush back to Santander because his team, lying second from bottom in La Liga with just one win to its name, faces Málaga at 8pm in El Sardinero.

"I will be at the match, there is no doubt," Cúper replied when members of the club asked about his presence on the bench owing to his appointment in Madrid.

The members' own situation might be considered Kafkaesque. On October 28 Racing's entire board of directors resigned en masse in order to make way for a shareholders' meeting on December 17 or 18. In the case of an across-the-board resignation, the board is obliged by law to continue operating while the new managing group is decided.

Meanwhile, current club president Francisco Pernía and his board have decided not to set foot in their box during Racing matches given their temporary position and in order to avoid possible confrontations with supporters. If Cúper doesn't make the match, the isolation will be complete: the club's majority shareholder, Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed, has departed and nobody is expecting to see him anywhere around Santander. The board doesn't go to games because of institutional reasons and the coach has a legal appointment in Madrid that could leave him - though he says otherwise - off the bench for a day.

And there is another incredible situation to add to this feeling of emptiness. The shareholders' meeting remains a mystery. Nobody is expecting Syed, even though he has 98.89 percent of the club's shares at his disposal. Of those few remaining shares, the second majority shareholder is Dimitry Piterman, a Ukrainian-American businessman who has cut his own colorful swath in club ownership through the Spanish divisions and who is also not expected to attend the meeting.

In the absence of the club's owners, a bureaucratic-institutional procedure will choose the new board.

Pernía, the current acting director, is continuing to look for businessmen to invest in the Cantabrian club. "Interest exists, there are possibilities, but to date there is no done deal," club sources affirm. "If investors are not found, the range of possibilities is unforeseen."

Racing finds itself in a situation that is not entirely new; in 2005, only institutional help from the regional government helped stave off a future full of big, black clouds about to unload a storm. The political times have changed and now institutional transactions for saving private clubs are hard to sell to the public.

It is true that the case of Cúper - who denies all the accusations and regrets, through his lawyer, his strange passage from witness to suspect - has ended up adding more doubt over an organization that is, nevertheless, up to date in paying all its employees. The veteran coach is facing his most delicate personal moment at the most delicate time he has known at all of the clubs he has led. It's a maze that doesn't seem to have an exit.

Racing Santander coach Héctor Cúper during a Liga match.
Racing Santander coach Héctor Cúper during a Liga match.ESTEBAN COBO (EFE)
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