You will just have to take my word for it. Were money not to change hands, Spain would have gone down the lavatory pan long ago. The black market has ensured Spain has a slight pulse.
But, after watching a referee gift a football match to Real Madrid this evening, I wonder how anyone can be in denial that football matches at the highest level are open to corruption. What other explanation does one offer for a referee showing the red card to Nani at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening?
Incompetence? Certainly. Stupidity? No question.
But maybe he was on the take. After all, the very wealthy people behind Real Madrid have made their fortunes from corruption. Not necessarily the names you see in the public domain. But the people who really run Real Madrid. The folk who still have posters of General Franco above their bed. Those who miss the Civil War.
Recently a well researched study delivered findings that some of the biggest games in the Champions League had been bent. Their outcome altered by the exchange of monies and, in some cases, the subject of corrupt payments to officials.
Many were surprised. I was not. Not for a minute.
On the pitch this evening Manchester United were in total control of the game until the ridiculous sending off. Nani did not know a Real Madrid player was coming from behind him. Did the referee presume that Nani had eyes in the back of his head?
No. Much more likely is that he was stupid. Or on the take.
Living in Spain, and seeing how the country works from the lowest to the highest level, I am not reluctant to accept that the latter is a distinct possibility.
Already I can hear people say that I must be a Man Utd fan. Wrong.
In 1991 I watched my team beat Manchester United 1-0 in the League Cup final. Fair and square.
I couldn’t care one way or the other if Man Utd win a football match. What I care about is this once beautiful game being ruined by referees or corrupted by the corrupt.
I went into tonight’s game hoping to watch a football match to savour. That was the case until the referee acted. Ronaldo was anonymous while it was 11 men v 11. For all the talk about Rooney being dropped to the bench the fact is Sir Alex Ferguson had got the tactics spot on. United were playing very well until the ref saw red. I was particularly taken with how well Rafael and Welbeck were performing.
Manchester United were in control of what was a captivating first half. Real Madrid could not penetrate the United defence and did not threaten.
There was nothing fair about the outcome of tonight’s game.
I know my fellow countrymen. They will simply decide that the ref got it wrong. That he was incompetent. That he made a mistake.
But I have an advantage over my fellow Englishman. One that should not be dismissed as the ravings of a nutter.
I know that when you need something to happen for you in Spain the answer is simple, if expensive.
You want a decision or outcome to go your way? Simple.
You find the official who can make a difference and you cross their palm with silver.
Did that happen in Manchester tonight?
But I for one would not be remotely surprised were that the case.
Spanish society is corrupt to the core. Football at the highest level can be corrupt. A handful of referees can be corrupted. When all three elements come together, anything is possible.
Either way Real Madrid were very lucky to win a game in which they did not have a sniff until one player legitimately went for a ball. Another player accidentally got kicked in the chest, and went to ground as if assassinated. No surprise there.
It would have been fairly ridiculous had the ref produced a yellow card for high kicking by Nani. Wrong, but just about acceptable.
In the game of football that was once a contact sport played by men, that accidental challenge acted out in the 1960’s would have seen the players get up and carry on with the game.
So how do you explain a referee showing a red card for an accidental coming together of foot and chest?
I know how I explain it.
I can’t prove it, of course.
But then I don’t have to.
I live in a country where money changes everything.
And no sporting club in that country is more powerful than Real Madrid.