In the wake of Medellin-based Atletico Nacional’s victory in Colombia’s soccer league final, media and soccer fans have called into question the impartiality of the referee and the integrity of the league that is sponsored by Nacional’s owner.
Referee Imer Machado has been the referee in five major victories for Medellin-based soccer club Atletico Nacional in the last three years, reported Barranquilla-based newspaper El Heraldo.
Including the championship won on Wednesday night against Junior Barranquilla, Atletico Nacional has won five of the last nine league championships, and were victorious in the cup championship last year. Every winning final season has seen Imer Machado has officiated at least one of the two games needed to win the championship.
Colombia’s highest soccer league known as the Liga Postobon has two seasons each year and is named after Postobon, a Colombian soft drink giant.
Not the first time
The Copa Colombia, also sponsored by Postobon and known as the “Copa Postobon,” is a separate competition also involving the second division of Colombian football, has seen Atletico Nacional win the last two contested in 2012 and 2013. Imer Machado officiated in the 2013 competition, won by Nacional.
Barranquilla newspaper El Heraldo alleged the “Hand of Machado was visible” in the championship game on Wednesday night.
— EL HERALDO (@elheraldoco) May 22, 2014
Soccer fans on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter also raised questions about the fairness of the final. One fan said “Postobon congratulates the Postobon team for winning the Postobon trophy, and the man of the match, Imer Mahcado.” Another fan echoed these sentiments, stating “Nacional what? The owner of the team that sponsors the league, and also puts Imer Machado in charge of the game.” The hashtag on Twitter #MachadoTeLaRegalo (Machado gave you the game) was trending in Colombia on Thursday.
Postobon felicita al equipo Postobon por haber ganado el trofeo Postobon y a la figura del partido, Imer Machado.
— Jesus Manuel_Mevi (@JesusMevi) 22. Mai 2014
¿Nacional qué? El dueño del equipo patrocina la liga, y además pone a pitar a Imer Machado. ¿No querrá que uno de Junior se pase para ellos?
— Adolfo Zableh (@azableh) 22. Mai 2014
Imer Machado was involved in a scandal in 2009 where he was accused of asking for the jersey of Carmelo Valencia, who then played for the Bogota-based soccer club, Millonarios, although he stated to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that it was in good faith on the part of the player, who stated while giving him the shirt, “you are still the best referee in Colombian football.”
The owner of Postobon,Carlos Ardila Lulle coincidentally, is also the owner of league-winners Atletico Nacional. According to his own website, Lulle is also the main shareholder of RCN TV station which shows all Liga and Copa finals.
In 2010, due to a Colombian anti-tobacco law, the First Division of Colombian soccer was forced to change sponsors from Mustang cigarettes to Postobon, a soft drink company. One year after the fact, Atletico Nacional won their first championship in the first of the two championships held in 2011.
A press conference by Wednesday’s losing team Junior Barranquilla, was scheduled for 5pm Thursday.
- La mano de Ímer Machado se vio en el partido (El Heraldo)
- Ímer Machado dice que no le pidió camiseta a Carmelo Valencia, quien se la dio en acto de buena fe (El Tiempo)
- Organizacion Ardila Lulle (Lulle Group Website)