Belfast Telegraph

Workmates told me I was dead, says footballer whose ex-club faked his death

Spanish native Fernando LaFuente said he had no role in the ruse attempted by the club in Dublin, Ballybrack FC.

A footballer whose former club faked his death in an apparent bid to avoid a match has said he learned of his demise from work colleagues.

Spanish native Fernando LaFuente said he had no role in the ruse attempted by the club in Dublin, Ballybrack FC.

The club has apologised for a “gross error of judgment” after falsely reporting that Mr LaFuente had died in a traffic accident on the way home from training last week.

I was aware there was going to be some story on me but I thought it was going to be me breaking a leg Fernando LaFuente

Ballybrack’s game against Arklow Town on Saturday was postponed, while other teams in the Leinster Senior League held a minute’s silence in honour of the amateur player.

The league also posted a notice of his death in The Herald newspaper before it was discovered that Mr LaFuente was alive and well.

Mr LaFuente moved to Galway a number of months ago. He said the club had told him they might claim that he had had an accident as a way of avoiding playing the game against Arklow.

He said he only learned that his death had been faked on Tuesday night.

They started sending me all these news articles and mass media. And that's how I found out I was dead Fernando LaFuente

“I was aware there was going to be some story on me but I thought it was going to be me breaking a leg,” he told RTE.

“I was home yesterday after my work finished. I was playing some video games. Suddenly I got a call from work and they said what’s happened. They told me, ‘you’re a celebrity’.

“They started sending me all these news articles and mass media. And that’s how I found out I was dead.”

Mr LaFuente said the club has since apologised to him.

It's serious on their part but I'm finding it a little bit funny. Because basically, I'm not dead Fernando LaFuente

“As soon as I heard the news, I wrote to them,” he said. “They got straight back to me and told me what was going on and they apologised.

“It’s serious on their part but I’m finding it a little bit funny. Because basically, I’m not dead. And no one has actually been harmed here.”

Mr LaFuente said he would have had no issue with the club falsely claiming he had broken a limb.

“It was OK because it was a broken leg (I thought). I didn’t care because I wasn’t there any more. If I wasn’t getting in any kind of trouble, why should I care? Whatever. These little lies, everyone tells once in a while,” he said.

He said the reports on his death had been a “bit sad”.

“A man in his 20s, with his whole life in front of him, dying in a car accident. I don’t know how I feel about that. It’s funny for me because I’ve been watching my own death,” he said.

The software engineer suggested his ex-club might have been keen to get Saturday’s game called off due to a lack of players.

“I don’t think they were afraid (of playing Arklow),” he said.

“I think they had a rough time getting players. They don’t play football professionally. Most of them have regular jobs and some of them work in the UK. I think that was the issue. It was nothing major.”

In response to recent events and the information which is currently in circulation across social and mainstream media....

Posted by Ballybrack Fc on Tuesday, November 27, 2018

In a statement posted on Facebook, Ballybrack FC said: “It has come to the attention of both the club, senior players and the management team that a gross error of judgment has occurred emanating from correspondence sent from a member of the senior set-up management team to the Leinster Senior League.

“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.

“At this stage we can only offer our sincere apologies to the Leinster Senior League, our opponents Arklow Town FC and the host of clubs and football people who made contact with us or offered messages of support in recent days.”

The club added that “the person in question has been relieved of all footballing duties” following an emergency meeting.

Leinster Senior League chairman David Moran told RTE that the story “started to unravel” after they had enquired about offering support to the family.

“We wanted to show our sympathies and go to the Mass and maybe meet the family and see what we could do to help in this horrible situation,” he said.

“And we were told he was flown back to Spain on the Saturday. Straight away, that rang alarm bells for us.

“We checked the hospitals, we checked everywhere. Nobody could find anything about this young fella. Obviously, some of his team-mates released stuff on social media saying he went back to Spain four weeks ago.”

The league issued a statement saying that it had acted in “good faith” after being informed of the death, but added: “The league would like to offer their sincerest apologies for any distress caused as a result of notifying clubs as to the demise of a valued player.”

Mr LaFuente works for software company Glofox. He moved to Galway when the company offered him a relocation in the autumn.

Glofox issued a statement on Wednesday to confirm he was alive.

“Fernando is still employed by Glofox and still living in Galway,” it said.

“Fernando was completely unaware of the false statement made in relation to his association with Ballybrack Football Club. He only learned of the false statement over the past few days through social media.

“It has been an extremely anxious time for Fernando as he tries to speak to family members and friends before they hear the news through social and other media.”

The company said Mr LaFuente was hoping to get back to “some sense of normality”.

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