The world football governing body, FIFA has brought down its scolding stick on three Italian clubs for illegally transferring Nigerian minors.
The three clubs punished are Italian Serie A club Spezia Calcio and lower-league sides USD Lavagnese 1919 and Valdivara 5 Terre.
FIFA slammed Spezia with a two-year transfer ban, maintaining that the American-owned club broke transfer rules when they recruited players under the age of 18 from Nigeria.
According to The Athletic, FIFA said the club was guilty of “bringing several Nigerian minors into Italy using a scheme aimed at circumventing (transfer of minor rules) as well as national immigration law”.
The international transfers of players are only allowed if the player is over the age of 18. This means that, as far as minors are concerned, international transfers are technically prohibited.
The two other Italian lower-league sides were punished for “having played an active role” in the scheme.
Aside from not being able to sign any new players for the next two seasons, Spezia were also hit with a fine of CHF 500,000 (£394k).
The club can appeal the punishment, which would be frozen in the event of a hearing. It is unclear when the incidents took place.
Spezia, who last week appointed former Italian international, Thiago Motta, as their new manager, finished 15th in Serie A last season.
Though the identities of the Nigerian minors involved have not been revealed, Umar Sadiq, David Okereke, Nura Abdullahi and Theophilus Awua are among the players that moved to Spezia from Football College Abuja in the last eight years.
Spezia’s previous owner, Italian-Nigerian Gabriele Volpi, also had controlling interest in Football College Abuja. And Spezia’s modus operandi was to transfer the sporting rights of Football College Abuja’s Nigerian minors who impress at the Torneo di Viareggi to the club.
The Italian Football Federation were aware of these breaches and had investigated Spezia prior to FIFA’s verdict on Friday.