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Asian player associations are investigating how to best provide support for hundreds of expatriate African footballers in the region.

FIFPro Asia member associations met in Kuala Lumpur recently to examine the issue just as the Laos football federation was fined $700,000 for registering under-age players from Liberia who were living in appalling conditions in the southeast Asian country.

The African teenagers were brought to a so-called academy by Champasak United but had to live in a dilapidated part of the club’s stadium. They slept on the floor and only had two meals per day of bread and rice.

FIFPro was alerted to the plight of the youngsters who were desperate to return home. The world player association helped repatriate most of the minors and filed a complaint to FIFA in 2015 which led to the fine last week.

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The delegates at the FIFPro Asia congress discussed setting up a database of African players in the region, strengthening links with player associations in Africa and drawing up an emergency protocol when cases of child trafficking emerge.

There are about 450 African players in Asia, in countries including Qatar, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, according to Stephane Burchkalter, General Secretary of FIFPro Africa who took part in the meeting.

FIFPro hopes that the size of the fine handed out to the Laos federation encourages other Asian football federations to increase oversight of vulnerable minors and players at risk of poor treatment by clubs in the region.

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At the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, there were player associations and player representatives from Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Qatar and Uzbekistan.

They also discussed a “first-aid” package of legal steps for players who become involved in contractual disputes with their clubs. The steps have also been laid out in a player advocacy manual.

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FIFPro has begun working with FIFA on implementing independent arbitration panels, known as National Dispute Resolution Chambers (NDRC), to resolve conflict between players and clubs.

Takuya Yamazaki, FIFPro Asia chairman, said: "In the light of FIFA’s increasing focus on stakeholder involvement, FIFPro is building a strong relationship with FIFA to promote the healthy development of football.

"FIFPro Asia has been working closely with FIFA and local stakeholders during the introduction of the NDRC project and various other activities to advance the development of football in Asian countries."

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Photo top: African players in a previous team line-up of Champasak United in Laos. Above: Player associations and representatives meet in Kuala Lumpur.

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