The Laos Football Federation (LFF) was sanctioned on Thursday by Fifa with a fine of 690,000 Swiss francs after being found guilty of breaching several provisions concerning international transfers.
The sanction comes after BBC Sport reported in 2015 that African footballers as young as 14 years were being traded to Laos.
The report unveiled that Laos side Champasak United imported 23 under-age players from West Africa to an unregistered football academy in February 2015.
Fifa’s article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players prohibits the transfer of players to a foreign club or academy until they are 18.
Laos : Football's governing body, Fifa, has fined the Lao Football Federation (LFF) 690,000 CHF ($711,000; £500,000) for using African footballers. As young as 14 were being trafficked there.#Africanews #Africa #Afrique #WorldNews #News #Sabcnews https://t.co/xoYnMfdMOM pic.twitter.com/kzTSwhCHMs— Africafrique (@Africafrique) 19 April 2018
Because of this, the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) called on Fifa to take action against the LFF, which failed to discipline Champasak for its breach of the rules.
Since several West African countries lack a football academy of its own, young players from countries like Liberia gratefully accepted invitations to join the ‘IDSEA Champasak Asian African Football Academy’.
Kesselly Kamara, who was brought into Laos from Liberia when he was just 14, said he was tricked by former Liberia international Alex Karmo into signing a six-year deal before playing for Champasak.
The contract promised him a salary and accommodation, however, the youngster said he was never paid and had to sleep on the floor of the club’s stadium along with other young footballers.
‘It was very bad because you can't have 30 people sleeping in one room,’ Kamara told the BBC.
According to Liberian journalist and sports promoter Wleh Bedell, the academy offered by Champasak never existed.
‘It's a fictitious academy, which was never legally established,’ said Bedell. ‘It's an 'academy' that has no coach nor doctor. Karmo was the coach, the business manager, everything. It was completely absurd.’
Following pressure from FIFPro and Fifa, by April 2015 Champasak had released 17 teenagers from their contracts, with Kamara among them.
Some of the young footballers who returned to Liberia told the BBC that they were poorly fed, rarely paid and received no medical assistance from the club.
Since their arrival, the club held their passports, and since they were illegal immigrants, their freedom of movement was restricted.
‘It is shocking to FIFPro that a club from Laos, which - with all due respect - is a very small football country, can lure minor players from Liberia without Fifa noticing,’ FIFPro official Stephane Burchkalter said.