Southeast Asian football has been rocked by life bans for 22 players from Laos and Cambodia for match-fixing.
The Asian Football Confederation announced the suspensions on Wednesday after investigating matches of the Laos national team, and club side Lao Toyota FC.
Of the 22, 15 are current or former Lao Toyota players. The Vientiane-based team were Lao champions in 2015, and have played in the last two editions of the AFC Cup.
Four of the players — Saynakhonevieng Phommapanya, Chintana Souksavath, Moukda Souksavath Mphatthana Syvilay — were provisionally suspended last November. Those bans have been turned into lifetime sanctions.
After winning a two-legged playoff against Cambodia’s Boeung Ket Angkor FC last month, Lao Toyota were due to take part in the 2017 AFC Cup.
“The AFC investigation into the manipulation of matches involving the representative teams of the Lao Football Federation commenced in 2014 and remains ongoing,” the AFC announced in an official statement.
“The investigation has been supported by Sportradar and the FIFA Integrity Unit. In order to protect the integrity of the investigation, specific details including the relevant matches will not be disclosed.”
Last month, Laos champion Lanexang United, who had also qualified for the 2017 AFC Cup, pulled out of the continental competition because of the collapse of this year’s Laos Premier League.
As a nation, Laos have appeared in the AFF Suzuki Cup on 10 occasions, although they failed to qualify for the 2016 edition.
“The AFC has a zero-tolerance policy on match-fixing and its regulations provide for tough sanctions for match manipulation,” the AFC statement added.
“The decisions have been notified to the Lao Football Federation and the Football Federation of Cambodia. The AFC will request FIFA to extend the bans to have worldwide effect.”