Latvia captain denies saying team was offered bribes by Russians

Latvia captain Vitalijs Astafjevs denied reports that he said players and team officials were offered bribes to throw last week's World Cup qualifier against Russia.

The Latvian newspaper Sporta Avize quoted Astafjevs as saying money was offered by the Russians. But Astafjevs told the Russian daily Sport-Express that he had only related rumors he had heard.

"I could not imagine that my careless words ... would cause such a stormy reaction," Sport-Express quoted Astafjevs as saying.

Astafjevs told Sport-Express that he was asked if he had heard rumors of possible attempts to bribe the Latvian team ahead of the game, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

"I answered that our generation plays fairly and that I knew about the rumors. And I told reporter all I'd heard," Astafjevs was quoted as saying.

He also said that Latvian newspaper's translation of his comments, made in Russian, could have been flawed.

"I do not blame the reporter, who was doing his job. I should have been more careful - first think, then speak," Sport-Express quoted him as saying. "After the match, emotions sometimes prevent you from adequate estimation of what you've said."

The Russian Soccer Union said it has appealed to the Latvian soccer federation for an explanation.

Astafjevs, who plays for Russian league club Rubin Kazan, could not be reached for comment, the AP reports.

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