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banner Sunday, 8 October, 2000, 03:51 GMT 04:51 UK
Fake passport scandal hits Serie A
Dida
Milan's Brazilian goalkeeper Dida has been implicated
Italy's Serie A football league has been rocked by a fake passport scandal just one week into the new season.

As many as nine South American players are implicated in a scandal that centres on the provision of false passports to enable clubs to field non-European players as Europeans.

That helps clubs overcome the limits on non-European Union talent imposed by world governing body FIFA.

The fake passports affair follows allegations of widespread doping in 1998 and other claims concerning the abuse of the system of naturalisation that have tarnished the world's highest profile league in recent years.

Controversy

And it comes after a controversy last season involving the naturalisation of Lazio's Argentinian midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron.

The first indication of the new season's scandal came on September 14 when two Brazilian players with Udinese - Silva Warley and Valentim Alberto - were arrested by Polish frontier police at Warsaw for presenting fake Portuguese passports.

The Italian Football Federation and Udine magistrates launched probes into the affair.

Then, in the last week of September, Uruguayan Alejandro Da Silva and Brazilian Henrique Amaral Jorginho were hit with an expulsion order by Udine police for also possessing fake Portuguese passports.

Juan Sebastian Veron
Veron was in trouble last year over his naturalisation papers

"We managed to establish this false identity thanks to the signature of the civil servant featuring on the document," said Udine prefect of police Giuseppe Di Donno.

"The Portuguese embassy informed us that the civil servant in question never existed so we therefore treated the passport as false."

Other players linked to the inquiry are AC Milan's Brazilian international goalkeeper Dida and the same club's two Argentinian stars Fabian Ayala and Jose Antonio Chamot.

Also implicated are Parma's Argentinian star Matias Almeyda and AS Roma's Brazilian player Assuncao.

Lazio representative Vincenzo Morabito, the vice-President of the international association of players agents, is demanding stiff penalties for anyone guilty of wrong-doing.


You do not find passports in Easter eggs. Someone must be offering them to players' agents and I fear the existence of a real criminal organisation in the shadow of these agents
  Vincenzo Morabito
Lazio president

"You do not find passports in Easter eggs," he said. "Someone must be offering them to players' agents and I fear the existence of a real criminal organisation in the shadow of these agents.

"I hope the ongoing inquiry will uncover the truth and find and punish severely those responsible.

Irregular

"To get rid of this shame the federations and FIFA must intervene because before there was too much laxity."

Lazio themselves were under the microscope last season because of allegations that Veron had acquired false documents.

A judicial inquiry was opened against Veron, suspected of having acquired his Italian naturalisation by irregular means.

He had maintained he had a distant relative from the southern Italian region of Calabria but documents presented to the Italian consulate in Rio de la Plata showed strong irregularities.

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See also:

03 Oct 00 |  Europe
Lippi sacked by Inter
02 Oct 00 |  Europe
Inter suffer shock defeat
26 Sep 00 |  Europe
Zoff set for Lazio return
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