The Asian Football Confederation says it found out that a dozen Brazilian-born soccer players playing for East Timor were registered using phony birth or baptism certificates.
Now, it has booted the East Timor team out of the 2023 Asian Cup. The players involved in the scheme played in 29 matches, which included World Cup qualifying games.
The Football Federation Timor-Leste has been ordered to forfeit those matches and was fined $20,000, with an additional penalty of $56,000 suspended for a probationary period of two years.
The probe found that documents for 12 Brazilian-born players were falsified to show that they had at least one parent born in East Timor. The AFC launched the investigation in June, in collaboration with FIFA, the game’s governing body.
It’s not clear whether the players themselves were involved in the document doctoring.
“The investigations made no finding regarding the validity of the Timor-Leste citizenship held by those footballers,” the AFC stated. “That is a question for the state authorities of Timor-Leste.”
“East Timor has already been eliminated from the current World Cup, and now faces being expelled from 2022 qualifying in a separate FIFA disciplinary case,” according to The Associated Press.
East Timor is a tiny country with a population of approximately 1.2 million people.
The players with fake documents “helped the nation to its first ever win,” the BBC reported. It has had a total of five wins in just under 14 years, the broadcaster added.
The East Timor national team is sometimes “jokingly called the Little Samba Nation for its rapid, and sometimes suspect, naturalization of Brazilian players,” according to The New York Times.
Striker Patrick Fabiano, one of the players with fake documents listed today, told the Times in 2015 that he “received an invitation from them and they say: ‘We give the passport, you play for us.'”