By Brian Homewood
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 21 - Former Brazilian World
Youth Cup winner Carlos Alberto was banned for 360 days by a
disciplinary tribunal on Tuesday for falsifying his date of
birth to cut five years off his real age.
Carlos Alberto, who plays for first division Figueirense,
had already admitted to age fraud, saying that he had been
driven to do it by poverty and hunger.
The player, whose real age is 28 and not 23 as previously
believed, was in the Brazil team which won the world under-20
championship in the United Arab Emirates in December 2003 when
he would have been nearly 26.
"I don't think the penalty was fair because he did this out
of necessity, so that he could play football," Figueirense's
representative Marcio Bittencourt said after the hearing.
Carlos Alberto, who has been the driving force in mid-table
Figueirense's midfield and had been linked with a possible move
to Brazilian champions Sao Paulo, did not attend.
He had faced a maximum ban of 720 days.
The case broke on Nov. 7 when the Folha de Sao Paulo
newspaper reported that the player, full name Carlos Alberto de
Oliveira Junior, was born exactly five years before his declared
date of birth of Jan. 24, 1983.
Figueirense, who were not punished, immediately suspended
him pending investigations.
In a television interview the following day, the player said
he was told in 2000 he was good enough to try for a professional
career, which represented a chance to escape from poverty.
He accepted an offer from a friend who said he could get
fake documents to cut five years off Carlos Alberto's age and
kick-start his career.
"My family was very poor and it was a chance to give them
something," said Carlos Alberto.
"It was a chance for me to make a living....I was hungry.
"I am 28, not 23."
Carlos Alberto played for a number of small clubs before
joining Figueirense in 2003 and said none of them, nor Brazil,
knew about his age.
Brazil has had several cases of age fraud in the past,
usually involving players attempting to jump down an age group
at the start of their careers.
The most famous involved former Brazil and Real Madrid coach
Vanderlei Luxemburgo who spent most of his career, including two
years in charge of the national team, with a birth certificate
giving his first name as Wanderley and his date of birth as May
Luxemburgo, whose real date of birth is May 10, 1952, later
confessed that the certificate was fake and said his late father
had obtained it for him when he was a teenager.
In October 2001, a court agreed to cancel the fake
certificate and Luxemburgo turned three years older at the
stroke of a pen.