4th April 2017

UAE clubs appear to be offering Brazilians Palestinian passports

In the latest twist in Asian football’s passport scandal, a Brazilian once accused of using illegitimate Uzbekistani papers may now be registered as a citizen of the very country which brought the continental controversy to a head. Fabio Lima moved to United Arab Emirates (UAE) club Al-Wasl in 2014, and the following year was accused of being falsely registered as an Uzbekistani. ‘(A rival club is) claiming they had obtained proof his Uzbek passport number was registered to an Uzbek female reportedly residing in Tashkent’, UAE’s The National newspaper reported at the time.

In line with Asian Football Confederation (AFC) regulations, many leagues in Asia keep one spot in their squad reserved for a player from a fellow AFC nation. The rule has been subject to much controversy, with dozens of South Americans now possessing Asian passports, many allegedly gained through fraudulent means.

The accusation against Lima was quickly withdrawn. However, the Transfermarkt site, which is updated by volunteers, now lists him as being a dual Brazilian-Palestinian. Ironically, it was a complaint from the Palestine Football Association that triggered the current passport scandal, after its national men’s team lost a World Cup qualifier to a team from East Timor fielding several Brazilians.

And Lima is not the only Brazilian-Palestinian playing in the UAE. Jucilei, a midfielder from Rio, moved to the Al-Jazira club in 2014. In an interview with ESPN, he said: “The club offered (me a passport), I accepted, it’s good for me and the club. If I do not stay here in two and a half years I can play another team here as an Asian. I can go to Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, always as Asian. I think it was good for me and the club. I’m not sure why they chose Palestine. They asked me if I accepted, I accepted, I passed the documents and they made the passport.”

He also said he would not accept a call up to the Palestinian national team. “My focus, I know it is difficult, but my focus is the Brazilian team. This is my business…I think it’s difficult, but not impossible.”

It is unclear if Lima still ocupies Al-Wasl’s so-called “+1” spot, as his strike partner, Caio Canedo, is listed as having Timorese papers. There is no suggestion that any player named here has received a passport through illegitimate means, but it does raise further questions about the use of passports in Asian football.

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