TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan fired their national coach Javier Aguirre on Tuesday because of fears the Mexican’s alleged involvement in an ongoing match-fixing case could affect the team’s bid to qualify for the next World Cup.
Although Aguirre has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name after being embroiled in a Spanish anti-corruption investigation, the Japan Football Association (JFA) said they did not want any distractions for the team.
“We reached the conclusion that we had to terminate his contract,” JFA chief Kuniya Daini said in a news conference broadcast live on Japanese television.
The JFA’s decision to part ways with Aguirre follows media reports that Spanish prosecutors were preparing to indict the Mexican and dozens of others who were named in the probe.
The investigation centres around Real Zaragoza’s 2-1 win at Levante on the final day of the 2010-11 La Liga campaign where Aguirre’s Zaragoza side won to avoid relegation.
The prosecutor alleged the Levante players were paid a total of US$1.49 million to deliberately lose the game.
Aguirre, a former Mexico and Atletico Madrid manager, has long denied any involvement in match-fixing and refused to elaborate on his role during the Asian Cup, held last month in Australia.
The JFA stuck by the 56-year-old Aguirre during the tournament where the Samurai Blue were defending the title they won in 2011.
But speculation about his future intensified after Japan suffered a shock loss on penalties to United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals.
“First of all we’d like to convey to coach Aguirre that the reason for the cancellation is that we want to avoid any influence to the national team on their preparation for World Cup and we want to avoid those risks,” Daini said.