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The BBC's Tom Gibb in Brasilia
"There is no proof yet"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 November, 2000, 05:39 GMT
Footballers quizzed in Brazil fraud probe
Ronaldo
The inquiry is focusing on the decision to field Ronaldo
By Tom Gibb in Brasilia

A Congressional commission investigating corruption in sport in Brazil has been hearing testimony from footballers and their former coach about the national team's poor showing in the 1998 World Cup final, which was won by France.

The commission is trying to find out whether a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal between the sportswear manufacturer, Nike, and the Brazilian Football Confederation contributed to poor performances by the team.

Edmundo Alvez da Souza testifies
Edmundo Alvez da Souza discusses Ronaldo's condition
It is alleged that under the deal, the Brazilian team was obliged to field a specific number of players sponsored by Nike.

Many Brazilians see this as an infringement of national sovereignty, taking selection of the team away from its manager and trainers.

Money laundering

The congressmen have spent the last day grilling players about the decision to field the country's top striker, Ronaldo, in the 1998 World Cup final, even though he is supposed to have had a fit of convulsions a few hours before the game.

He appeared tired and dazed on the field as his team lost 3-0 to France.

But, so far, the investigation has not got very far.

Part of the reason is that several key congressmen in the investigating commission are also owners of football clubs or have substantial interests in the game.

A similar commission working in the Senate has, however, heard sensational allegations of corruption, with football trainers and club owners said to have handed over briefcases stuffed with money, bound for secret accounts in the Caymen Islands.

The clubs are accused of laundering money, evading taxes and even falsifying the ages of players and trainers to secure more lucrative transfer deals to European clubs.

The investigations are expected to continue for several more weeks.

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