Football: Japan stick with Aguirre for Asian Cup despite scandal

Japan's head coach Javier Aguirre gestures during a news conference in Tokyo on Dec 15, 2014. Japan will stick with coach Javier Aguirre for next month's Asian Cup, despite the former Mexico coach being involved in a match-fixing scandal which h
Japan's head coach Javier Aguirre gestures during a news conference in Tokyo on Dec 15, 2014. Japan will stick with coach Javier Aguirre for next month's Asian Cup, despite the former Mexico coach being involved in a match-fixing scandal which has rocked world football. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan will stick with coach Javier Aguirre for next month's Asian Cup, despite the former Mexico coach being involved in a match-fixing scandal which has rocked world football.

He is due to appear in a Valencia court in February following a probe into match-fixing allegations dating back to 2011 when he was manager of Spanish side Real Zaragoza.

Prosecutors in Spain allege that Aguirre and 40 others were involved in rigging a league match which saw Zaragoza defeat Levante 2-1 to avoid relegation.

The prosecutors claim that Zaragoza paid a total of 965,000 euros (S$1.56 million) into the bank accounts of certain of its coaches, staff and players who then gave the money to Levante's players as a "bribe".

Aguirre, 56, vehemently denies any wrongdoing and the Japan Football Association (JFA) on Thursday said that he would continue as national team coach for January's Asian showpiece in Australia.

"Aguirre will lead the national team in the Asian Cup," JFA technical director Hiromi Hara told a press conference after a meeting of the board.

"What we need to do now is to understand the current situation correctly, and most importantly, to collect information to see where the scandal is going," he added.

The controversy has overshadowed Japan's preparations for the defence of their continental title, which kicks off in earnest against Palestine on Jan 12.

But Aguirre, who led his native Mexico to the last 16 of the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, has rejected suggestions the scandal has become a distraction.