Match-Fixing Leads to Lifetime Ban for 21-Year-Old Brazilian Soccer Player

Posted on: May 31, 2023, 07:09h. 

Last updated on: May 31, 2023, 11:32h.

Following an extensive match-fixing investigation into Brazilian soccer that eventually expanded into other countries, a number of players and officials will pay a heavy price. One of these received possibly the worst punishment a soccer player could imagine, a lifetime ban from the sport.

Marcos Vinicius Alves Barreira on the soccer field
Marcos Vinicius Alves Barreira on the soccer field. He’s received a lifetime soccer ban for his involvement in match-fixing. (Image: Vila Nova Soccer Club via Facebook)

The Brazilian Superior Court of Sports Justice (STJD, for its Portuguese acronym) sentenced a former player on Monday to stay away from soccer permanently and suspended another player for two years. These were the first two sentences to athletes related to the “Maximum Penalty” match-fixing scandal that has turned Brazilian soccer upside down.

The saga initially focused on only second- and third-tier soccer in Brazil before investigators uncovered corruption across the entire sport. Evidence traced the activity to Argentina and the US, where Max Alves of the Colorado Rapids found himself on a plane back to Brazil after being released from the team over his involvement.

Quick End to a Budding Career

The dream of many adolescents around the world is to become a professional soccer player. Out of the more than 2.6 billion under 20 (according to Pew Research), only about 129K make it.

Former Vila Nova de Goiás midfielder Marcos Vinicius Alves Barreira was one of them. The 21-year-old player, known to his fans as Romário, received a permanent ban. He will also have to pay a fine of BRL25,000 (about US$5,000), according to a document published on the STJD’s website.

On the other hand, Gabriel Domingos, also a former midfielder for the same team, received a six-year suspension and a $3,000 fine.

These are the first sentences of the STJD in the framework of the Maximum Penalty Operation in the Brazilian state of Goiás. Both players had already been released from the club after the allegations emerged.

The alarms went off in November when the president of the soccer club, Hugo Jorge Bravo, lodged a complaint with prosecutors. He alleged that three second-division matches had been rigged, and that Romário was involved.

Romário reportedly agreed to commit an intentional penalty in a match against Sport Recife on the last day of the second division Brasileirao. In exchange, he was to receive around $30K, of which an individual behind the crime paid him $2,000 upfront.

When the final lineup for the game appeared, Romário’s name wasn’t on it. The deal was off, and the unidentified suspect wanted his money back. Instead, Romário looked for other players to participate in the fraud.

That must have set off a light bulb in his head, because he became an intermediary who began recruiting other players to rig games. As for Domingos, investigators concluded that he also participated in the scheme.

Romário’s lawyer plans on appealing the lifetime ban.

Investigation Still Underway

The Goiás prosecutor’s office believes that at least 15 matches were rigged. So far, about 25 people face charges, including 15 soccer players and 10 bettors, or financiers. The scandal has grown so big that Brazil’s Parliament is now investigating as well.

Brazilian authorities identified the manipulation of the match results, of which eight were from the first division of the 2022 Brazilian Championship and one from the second, according to the Public Ministry.

Investigators determined that the players agreed to commit penalties to receive yellow and red cards in their respective games. Behind the acts is an alleged criminal organization dedicated to sports betting.

The gang was in charge of recruiting professional soccer players who would commit penalties and other infractions for $10K-$20K. So far, Maximum Penalty has determined that some of the wagering activity took place on Bet365 and Betano, knowledge that should help determine everyone involved.