Youth team players of Ten Benin were sentenced to jail on Tuesday for lying about their ages after they were kicked out of qualifying for next year’s Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
A court in the country’s commercial capital, Cotonou, handed down one-month sentences to the players, who were detained in September following their expulsion.
Charges were dropped against other people involved in the case, including a policeman and local politicians, on the “benefit of the doubt”.
The case was followed closely in the tiny West African nation and the court was packed with football insiders and fans.
Althanase Soton, who heads a fans’ association, told AFP the sentence was “lenient but educational”.
Benin were kicked out of the tournament after 10 players from the junior team were discovered to have lied about their age with the help of federation officials.
At the same hearing, the former president of Benin’s football federation, Anjorin Moucharafou, was sentenced to two months in jail.
The long-serving official had been arrested in July 2011 for fraud.
The new president of the Beninese football federation Mathurin de Chacus in August said he wanted to “put an end to corruption, improvisation and amateurism” in Beninese football.
He had filed a complaint about the overage players scandal and promised “very heavy” sanctions.
Football’s world governing body FIFA suspended Benin completely in 2004 and threatened the country with a ban several times again between 2010 and 2013.
In 2016, when the junior team was embroiled in yet another scandal, Benin President Patrice Talon worked to establish an executive committee to end the country’s “footballing decline”.