An Irish amateur soccer team has been forced to publicly apologize after it claimed that one of its players died in a motorcycle accident allegedly to avoid an upcoming match.
Ballybrack Football Club hailing from Dublin told Leinster Senior League, of which it’s a member, that Fernando Nuno LaFuente died unexpectedly last week, according to The Guardian. Shortly after, their game against Arklow Tow scheduled for Nov. 24 was postponed.
In addition, to show their support, other players in the league called for a moment of silence before their own games and wore remembrance armbands, as reported by Deadspin.
After the story of LaFuente’s death was published in a local paper, the chairman of the league, David Moran, decided to investigate, The Guardian reported. By Tuesday afternoon, it was confirmed that the player was, in fact, alive and had simply left the team several weeks prior.
Moran told RTE Ireland that he first grew suspicious of the story when he learned that LaFuente’s body was supposedly going to be return to Spain on Saturday, just one day after the alleged accident.
“We rang and we couldn’t get any answers out of [the club,]” he said. “We checked the hospitals, we checked everywhere. Nobody could find anything about this young fella … Some of his teammates released stuff on social media saying he went back to Spain four weeks ago.”
Moran continued, “It’s very extreme to get a game off. We acted in good faith. We had a minute silence at the weekend for that young lad. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Shortly after discovering that the player was “in good health,” the league released a statement on Tuesday.
“The Leinster Senior League would like to acknowledge that the notification of the death of a Ballybrack FC player as shared with all member clubs and media partner is without foundation,” the statement read. “The Leinster Senior League will cooperate with all relevant agencies in the investigation of this matter, and the league will also deal with this issue through their own interdisciplinary procedures.”
In response to the scandal, Ballybrack FC also apologized, calling the incident “a gross error of judgment.”
“As of this evening an emergency meeting was held and the person in question has been relieved of all footballing duties, within Ballybrack FC, its senior team and roles within the club itself,” reps for the team said. “The club has contacted Fernando to confirm his whereabouts, wellbeing and are thankful for his acceptance of our apology on this matter … This grave and unacceptable mistake was completely out of character and was made by a person who has been experiencing severe personal difficulties unbeknownst to any other members of the club.”
On Wednesday, LaFuente revealed his side of the story on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke. He insisted he had nothing to do with the plot, adding, “I was aware there was going to be some story on me, but I thought it was going to be me breaking a leg or something like that.”
But then his colleagues “started sending me all these news articles and mass media. And that’s how I found out I was dead.”
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“As soon as I heard the news, I wrote to them. They got straight back to me and told me what was going on and they apologized,” the athlete said of his former club. “It’s serious on their part but I’m finding it a little bit funny. Because basically, I’m not dead. And no one was harmed here.”
LaFuente then shared that he had to preemptively call his mother so she didn’t think he’d actually died and that he doubted theories that his former teammates created the story because they feared Arklow.
“I think they had a rough time getting players,” he explained. “They don’t play football professionally. Most of them have regular jobs and some of them work in the U.K. I think that was the issue. It was nothing major.”