Photo: Khin Maung Win/AP

East Timor is a small nation occupying the eastern half of the island Timor, which is a few hundred miles north of the Australian mainland. The island was a Portuguese then Indonesian colony until 1999, when they achieved independence. Just over 1 million people live there, and it took their national soccer team until 2012 to notch their first win.

Since then, East Timor’s team has won four other games, but they’ll have to vacate them all, after a joint investigation by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation discovered that the team had created fake birth certificates for 12 Brazilian players to illegally get them on the team.

The investigation identified twelve (12) Brazilian-born footballers that were registered in the AFC Administration System with falsified Timorese birth or baptismal certificates. These documents were submitted to the AFC to demonstrate that the footballers were eligible to participate for FFTL representative teams through one or both of their parents being born in Timor-Leste. Such particulars were found to have been falsified.

Several of the players had experience playing in the Brazilian first division. Six of the 12 players apparently played in East Timor’s maiden victory over Cambodia in 2012, and seven took part in recent World Cup qualifiers. As a result of the violations, the team will have to forfeit the results of 29 games and they’ll be banned from participating in the 2023 Asian Cup, the AFC’s premier tournament.

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