FC Barcelona Coach Xavi Addresses ‘Hostility’ From Athletic Bilbao Fans And Protests Over Referee Payments

FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez has responded to a protest from Athletic Bilbao fans against Barca’s charges for “continued corruption” in a referee payments scandal during his team’s 1-0 win over the Basque club.

Barca were charged on Friday by the provincial prosecutor’s office in Barcelona with “continued corruption between individuals in the sports field”.

It is said that they allegedly paid over $7 million to the Former Vice President of the Referees Committee Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira from 2001 to 2018, but Barca deny wrongdoing and insist that any payments made were for consultation work.

On Sunday, as Barca beat Athletic Club 1-0 with a first half goal from Raphinha, the home fans threw around fake bills with “MAFIA$” written on them.

Reacting to the incident, Xavi said that he respects the crowd at San Mames, as they “have always treated me well”. But he also added that today’s atmosphere “surprises me and saddens me”, as “judging prematurely is not good for society”.

“In the locker room we have not talked about the Negreira case, nor about whether they are going to punish us in Europe,” Xavi explained, with reports claiming that a one-year ban from the Champions League next season by UEFA is possible for the Blaugrana.

“We have to concentrate, we are professionals. The president has already spoken,” Xavi pointed out.

After they battled to a victory in hostile territory, and extended their lead to nine points at the La Liga summit ahead of El Clasico next Sunday, Xavi praised his men for a gutsy display.

“I’m proud of how this team is competing,” he said. “Today, 10 players came running from a corner in second seconds.

“Players like Gavi embody that,” Xavi highlighted, with a viral photo of the youngster showing just how dedicate he is to the cause. “I’m excited, because it’s very difficult to achieve.”

“We also have pressure because we want to win the league,” Xavi remarked elsewhere, when asked about pressure if Madrid face more pressure than his charges. “I told the players it was a final. And we had personality,” he concluded on this.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomsanderson/2023/03/12/fc-barcelona-coach-xavi-responds-to-athletic-bilbao-fans-protests-over-referee-payment-case-praises-players/