During the recent FIBA U19 World Championship in New Zealand, the Kazakh team was one of the sensations of the event and especially with their win over the hosts and therefore qualification for the next round, the team has fulfilled all the expectations. And it was one guard that played the game of his life at that particular moment: Anton Arsenyev. After having analyzed their team from a sportive way already, I have to come back to a more dark part of it after my previous article provoked some reactions.
As you probably know, passport fraud has been an usual way in former Soviet Republics in order to change the nationality or the age of several youth players in the past. However, nothing has ever been officially proved and all these guys (I won’t name them here) are still active with their respective new identities. But what happened this summer with the Kazakh player Anton Arsenyev is probably the most obvious passport fraud ever. But let’s start at the beginning…
After the publication of my article on Kazakhstan, I got in contact with a Russian journalist to give me some hints about the past of the player Anton Arsenyev. In 1986, a Russian player called Anton Arsenev Alexandrovitch was born. He grew up with the different St.Petersburg youth teams and was a member of the Spartak St. Petersburg second team that played in the Russian Higher League back in 2007. You can find his stats from that time right here or on Eurobasket.com. But in 2007, Arsenev stopped to play for Spartak 2. According to Eurobasket.com, he moved to Kazakhstan to the team of Barsy Atyrau. A really surprising move for a Russian player that averaged around 12ppg for a 21 year old in the third best league of the country. With the nationality restrictions in the Russian Superleague, a spot on that level would have been in reach in some future.
The strange things started when in 2008, a player called Anton Arsenyev played for the Kazakhstan U18 National Team that won the Fiba Asia U18 Championship and qualified for the U19 Worlds in New Zealand. This Anton Arsenyev was however born in 1991 but represented similar body type than the Arsenyev that played in Russia the years before. He was listed at 1m95 with the Kazakh National team while being listed at 1m90 when playing in St. Petersburg. The story became obvious for observers that were not in Iran for the U18 tournament when the team photos came up for the U19 World Championship of this summer.
|Arsenev in Russia (from basket.ru)||Arsenyev with Kazakhstan (from FIBA)|
Both players look really similar, even the haircut is still the same. Both guys have practically the same name (the only difference is coming from translating the Cyrillic) but have 5 years of difference officially. The “Russian” Arsenev (born in 1986) moved to Kazakhstan and 1 year later, a “Kazakh” Arsenyev (born in 1991) appears and plays for Youth National teams being 5 years younger but still looking the same. This was too obvious.
And when you dig deeper, you find even more indications that go in the direction of the most obvious passport fraud in Youth Basketball. The Club team of Arsenyev in Kazakhstan is coached by Vadim Burakov. Burakov who is also the coach of the U19 Kazakhstan National team that played in New Zealand. On the official homepage of the Barsy Atyrau team, you can also find the player profile page of a 1991 born Anton Arsenyev, together with a picture.
|Arsenev in Russia||Arsenyev in Barsy Atyrau|
This is of course all too obvious to be true you could imagine but it passed as Arsenyev was allowed to play for Kazakhstan in the different FIBA competitions. We tried to get in contact with the Kazakhstan basketball federation but nobody replied. The same, more surprisingly, also counted for New Zealand, where nobody dared to answer my email about this case. Because the 1991 born Arsenyev killed New Zealand in the decisive game of the Group phase with 27 points and prevented the Junior Tall Blacks from going on to the next round, it would have been interesting for the NZ federation to be informed but they seemed not to care. The question that remains is if anybody cares at all…