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East Timor expelled from Asian Cup for identity scam

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GENEVA (AP) A scam to provide Brazilian players with fake birth certificates to play in World Cup qualifying matches for East Timor has led to the country's expulsion from the 2023 Asian Cup.

At least 12 Brazilians players got ''falsified Timorese birth or baptismal certificates'' to play for East Timor's national team in qualifying matches for the 2019 Asian Cup, 2018 World Cup and other competitions, the Asian Football Confederation said Friday.

FIFA worked on the AFC-led investigation, which found seven World Cup qualifiers played between March and October 2015 were corrupted, the Asian governing body said in a statement.

Between five and seven ineligible Brazilian players were selected in the squad of East Timor - a Portuguese-speaking country now ranked 191st out of 211 FIFA teams - for each of those World Cup qualifiers.

''The investigation identified twelve (12) Brazilian-born footballers that were registered in the AFC Administration System with falsified Timorese birth or baptismal certificates,'' the AFC said, adding that faked documents stated ''one or both of their parents'' were born in East Timor.

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.

''FIFA will now complete its investigations upon receipt of the file from AFC,'' the world soccer body said in a statement.

The Asian body ordered East Timor to forfeit 29 matches involving national teams at senior and age-group level played between June 2012 and July 2016, and imposed a $20,000 fine.

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The list of corrupted games was ''non-exhaustive,'' said the AFC, which suspects other ineligible players and competitions, including the 2011 South East Asian Games and 2013 Asian Youth Games, are involved.

The AFC identified and sanctioned two officials for their parts in the case.

The general secretary of East Timor's federation, Amandio de Araujo Sarmento, was banned from soccer for three years and fined $9,000. Another official, Gelasio De Silva Carvalho, was fined $3,000 for attempting to interfere with the investigation.

''The AFC will request FIFA to extend the decision against Amandio to have worldwide effect and notify that the (East Timor federation) fielded ineligible players in seven FIFA matches,'' the Asian body said.

The AFC statement did not mention the East Timor soccer federation president, Francisco Kalbuadi Lay, who is also an elected member of the Asian confederation's executive committee.

Lay is also a member of East Timor's government, as minister of tourism, arts and culture, and president of its national Olympic committee.

Using ineligible players in the 2018 World Cup qualifying program, East Timor advanced past Mongolia in a two-leg first round series 5-1 on aggregate.

In a second-round group, East Timor got respectable results against the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Palestine when the Brazilian players were selected. After the rule-breaking accusations surfaced, East Timor did not select the ineligible players and lost 8-0 at the UAE, 10-0 at home against Saudi Arabia and 7-0 at Palestine.