Lucas Paqueta to play for Brazil in Copa America despite FA spot-fixing charge

Lucas Paqueta of Brazil celebrates with his teammates Endrick Felipe of Brazil after scoring the team's third goal during the friendly match between Spain and Brazil at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 26, 2024 in Madrid, Spain.
Lucas Paqueta (right) has become a regular starter for Brazil - Getty Images/Juan Manuel Serrano Arce

West Ham’s Brazilian star Lucas Paqueta has been cleared by his country’s football federation (CBF) to play in the Copa America next month after the serious spot-fixing charges laid against the player from the English Football Association this month that could yet result in a lengthy ban.

The CBF announced on Thursday night that it had reached the decision following a conversation with the English Football Associatopn and it would not be withdrawing Paqueta from Brazil’s Copa America squad, named by manager Dorival Junior before the FA charges were announced.

Paqueta, 26, is facing four serious charges of spot-fixing from the FA – intentionally getting himself booked in games for West Ham in order that others might profit from betting on that outcome. He is also facing two further charges, under the FA rule F3, alleging that he failed to comply with the investigation into him. He denies all the charges.

The CBF president Ednaldo Rodrigues said in a statement that he had approached the FA chief executive Mark Bullingham “in a cautious manner, with the aim of ascertaining the player’s current situation” to ensure there were no legal obstacles to Paqueta playing this summer.

The player, West Ham’s record signing at £50 million in the summer of 2022, has until Monday to respond to the FA charges which will go in front of an independent regulatory commission. The CBF also established there would be no decision made before the Copa America final in Miami on July 24.

West Ham's Lucas Paqueta celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the Europa League round of 16 second leg soccer match between West Ham United and SC Freiburg at the London stadium in London, Thursday, March 14, 2024
Lucas Paqueta is facing allegations of spot fixing - AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Quoting an email response from the FA’s head of integrity, Tarik Shamel, the CBF said that the FA had made no request to Fifa to provisionally suspend the player. Shamel was quoted as saying of Paqueta: “We [the FA] anticipate that, due to the intricacy of this case, there may be a request to extend the deadline for responding to the charges [on June 3].

“We will update you [CBF] as soon as we are aware of any revision of the date. Regarding a likely date for the case to reach a final decision, it is not possible to provide an estimate, but we will endeavour to keep you updated whenever possible.”

The CBF said that it could not sanction Paqueta before his case had been heard. When the first reports of his impending charges for breaking FA gambling regulations emerged last summer he was left out of the Brazil squad. He went on to play a full season at West Ham. The disclosure did, however, capsize a summer move to Manchester City.

Rodrigues said: “The CBF cannot, in an authoritarian manner and in defiance of the English Association that is conducting the case, sentence the player and ban him from playing for the national team, otherwise it would be an obvious anticipation of punishment, which under no circumstances, at least in the light of current national legislation, can be tolerated.”

He added: “It is true to say that the athlete is free to exercise his professional trade until now, the source of his livelihood and that of his family, in a full and unrestricted manner, whether for his club or for the national team of his country of origin.”

Paqueta could face a ban measured in years rather than months. His conduct at the Copa America is likely to come under even greater scrutiny. The most recent of the challenges allegedly done intentionally to get booked was in August of last year. If Paqueta is found guilty by the commission, the FA will push Fifa for a worldwide ban which – in the worst case scenario – curtails the player’s career. He will have to organise his own defence. West Ham have said they will support him.

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