Timor Leste Football Federation (FFTL) has been criticised for a policy of picking naturalised players, mostly from Brazil, in order to improve the country’s achievements at international level.
Over the past several years, the former Portuguese colony which was occupied by Indonesia before 2002, have naturalised a large number of oversea-born players, to the dismay of those who note that few, if any, have ties to the island nation.
Indeed, it suddenly became an important boost to their national squad after qualifying to the second round of World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers for the first time in history and improved the FIFA ranking from the bottom place in 2002 to climb up to 146 as their highest ever in June this year.
However, despite all of their success in improvement of football level, question marks raised among the fans, who demanded for an investigation to both Timor Leste’s prosecutor general and the minister of justice early last year regarding the naturalisation policy.
“The Brazilian players, they just come and spend one day and they get a Timorese passport and play in the national team,” said Jose Luis de Oliveira, the organizer of the local soccer activist group Amantes Bola was quoted by NY Times.
“We’d rather lose games with our own talents than win games with foreign players,” added one of Timor Leste supporter, Alex Tilman. “It’s particularly worse when we even lose with these foreign players.”
Meanwhile, one of the Brazilian-naturalised player, Patrick Fabiano, explained on how so many his country’s fellows had ended up playing for the South-East Asian nation. He said, some players had been invited through a relationship with a coach, or a team official, or after being spotted playing professionally in Asia.
“There is different stories,” the 28-year-old striker revealed. “About myself, I received an invitation from them and they say: ‘We give the passport, you play for us. We appreciate your style of football, we need one striker like you.'”
The current situation made the naturalised players still became a ‘strangers’ to the Timor Leste, as their presences restrained the native-born players to play for the Rising Sun squad.
“Those Brazilians are not playing at the local competitions. Therefore are not really enhancing and contributing to improve Timor Leste standards and level of playing,” the chairman of local club, Sport Dili e Benfica, Fernando da Encarnacao claimed.
“These people are playing for money. They are not playing for our country,” he concluded.
According to the FIFA rules, members are actually allowed to switch the players allegiances. But under the new regulations, the football governing body prevents a nation to naturalise players unless they had lived continuously in their new country for five years.