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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 09:06 GMT
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Carlos Alberto (right) with the Fifa World Youth Championship
Carlos Alberto (right) was part of the Brazil squad that won the tournament
Brazil won the 2003 World Youth Cup - for players of 20 and under - with a team that included a 25-year-old.

It was revealed last week that defensive midfielder Carlos Alberto had fiddled his age.

He was not born on 24 January 1983, but on that same date in 1978.

He is now nearly 29, and when Brazil won the trophy in Abu Dhabi he was just over a month short of his 26th birthday - closer to 30 than 20.

These cases are frequent in Brazil, but there are other culprits.

In South America, Ecuador have also had problems, the finger of accusation is frequently pointed at Africa - and in his biography of Alf Ramsey, Dave Bowler alleges that the former England manager was also guilty.

Bowler claims that Ramsey shifted his date of birth from 1920 to 1922. The reason was the Second World War.

It prevented his career from getting under way at the usual age, and he was worried that come the end he would be considered too old to be offered a professional contract.

Ramsey, then, had extenuating circumstances - but so does Carlos Alberto.

He comes from a society with a brutal divide between the few that are rich and the many that are poor.

Without his football ability, Carlos Alberto would be condemned to a life without hope; three hours on the bus to work every day and three hours back, often on foot, long working hours and dismal salaries at the end of it - providing, of course, he is lucky enough to have a job.

He went to the tournament and set off a time bomb for himself

The idea that those in these circumstances are a happy bunch, forever doing the samba on the way to the beach, is a monstrous fiction - created by Brazilian fascism, boosted by the tourist industry and repeated by those unable to think for themselves.

Carlos Alberto's talent was not a fiction. After solid service with Figueirense he was about to move to Sao Paulo, currently Brazil's best club, when the scandal exploded.

In a society where the dice were loaded against him he told a lie - which only worked because he backed it up with hard work and ability.

But he made one big mistake - he should never have represented his country in that World Youth Cup.

Not only did he cheat the competition, he also deprived a legitimate team-mate of the opportunity to take part.

The tournaments are wonderful experience From Maradona to Messi the World Youth Cup has been an important stage in many careers.

Brazil's 2003 side, for example, included Daniel Alves and Adriano, both now soaring with Sevilla, as well as the current CSKA Moscow pair of Dudu Cearense and Daniel Carvalho. They could have had one more teenage prospect on board.

There is little doubt that the Brazilian FA had no idea that Carlos Alberto was overage. Brazil produces so many players that they have no need of age cheats, and after a number of cases came to light at the start of the decade suspects were quietly dropped.

So when the call up came in 2003 Carlos Alberto should not have answered. A strategic injury or a discreet word in the right ear would have solved the problem.

Instead of which, he went to the tournament and set off a time bomb for himself.

And there is one excuse Carlos Alberto cannot use. He was old enough to know better.

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