Brazil risk suspension over ineligible players

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The Independent Online

Brazil could face a two-year ban from the international game if their football federation is found guilty of knowingly fielding over-age players in official competition.

Brazil could face a two-year ban from the international game if their football federation is found guilty of knowingly fielding over-age players in official competition.

In 1988 Mexico suffered that penalty for similar offences and if Fifa, world football's ruling body, imposes the same punishment on Brazil it would rule them out of the 2002 World Cup.

The Brazilian Football Federation [CBF] is laying all the blame for the alleged offences on the individuals concerned. Three falsified their dates of birth in order to compete in competitions eligible for Under-17s. Sandro Hiroshi and Henrique, who play for São Paulo, and Bell, who plays for Botafogo, are the three players alleged to have submitted false dates of birth.

Hiroshi was a member of the Brazil team that won the Under-17 Copa America in Paraguay in 1997 when in fact he was 18.

In 1995 Bell competed at the Under-17 World Cup when he too was 18. Henrique almost did the same for this year's Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand, but was kept at home at the last minute for having irregular papers.

The CBF president, Ricardo Texeira, has demanded sanctions against the three players concerned. The Federation claimed the trio counterfeited licences, identity papers, passports, birth certificates and other official documents and plans to suspend the three players - possibly for life.

Texeira said: "The justice tribunal could end their career because what they did is a crime which may be punished."

The CBF has sent a dossier on the matter to Fifa and if the governing body deems the Brazilian governing body culpable, and follows the precedent set with Mexico, it could then inflict a two-year ban on Brazil.

Such a ban would leave the four times world champions unable to fulfil their qualifying fixtures for the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea. Brazil are the only country to have competed in every World Cup finals since the tournament's inception in 1930.

Ukraine's coach, Josef Sabo, said yesterday he was resigning after his side failed to reach the European Championship finals. The 59-year-old coach has been under intense pressure since Ukraine suffered a surprising 3-2 aggregate defeat to Slovenia in their two-leg play-off last month. Last week the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Valery Pustovoitenko, who also heads the country's football federation, said Sabo should "definitely" be sacked.

The former Soviet and Dynamo Kiev striker Oleg Blokhin, who won the European Player of the Year award in 1975, is seen as most likely to replace Sabo.

Bobby Houghton, the former Bristol City manager, is likely to be dismissed as China's national coach after he was omitted from a list of names to prepare the team for January's Asian Cup qualifiers.

The list, announced yesterday, comprises Houghton's three assistants, Jin Zhiyang, Chi Shangbin and San Deliang. However, the Chinese Football Association refused to confirm that the English coach was about to lose his job.

Houghton was widely expected to be sacked after his Olympic side failed to qualify for next year's Sydney Games.

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