The player at the centre of a ‘sting’ played out in Salzburg on Monday was 31-year-old defender Dominique Taboga of SV Grödig, fifth in the 10-team top division after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Rapid Vienna.
Taboga began his career with the ASV Spatters and progressed via St Pölten and Admira to Rapid but never made it to the first team. He was released and played for minor clubs Krems Leoben, Kapfenberg and in Norway for Tromso. Later he returned to Kapfenberg and moved to Grödig, a market town near Salzburg, in the summer of 2012.
This is the latest crisis to further damage the image of an Austrian game battered by repeated international qualifying failures plus, now, the reticence of the league’s two main sponsors to renew their backing.
Reports claim that Taboga’s family were threatened unless he repaid bribes for fixing. Taboga claims he had repaid €70,000 but was then ordered to pay more.
He reported the extortion attempt to the police who pounced on the blackmailers as Taboga handed over a further €3,000 at a shopping centre car park in Anif on the outskirts of Salzburg.
Three people, including a former international, were arrested at the handover, according to the Salzburg prosecutor’s office.
The former player is apparently Sanel Kuljic, who scored three goals in 20 games for Austria between 2005 and 2007.
Kuljic, whose parents come from Bosnia-Herzegovina, was a youth player with Grodig. Later he played for a dozen clubs in Austria, Greece and Switzerland.
He joined Kapfenberg in 2012 just as Taboga was about to leave the club.
Grödig manager Christian Haas: “Taboga has told us that he was being blackmailed because of match-fixing. He made a voluntary disclosure to the police and now we have to wait to see what happens next.”
Allegations of matchfixing in Austrian football are not new but this is the most spectacular case uncovered so far.
Last September two former Wiener SK players – Mario Majstorovic and Erdzan Beciri – were accused of match manipulation. They have denied the allegations and an investigation is ongoing.