NATIONAL Police have broken up a human-trafficking racket which dressed illegal immigrants as football players to get them through the border into Spain.
Migrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa wore strips for the third division X club AD Ceuta, based in the Spanish-owned city-province of the same name on the Moroccan coast, which plays alongside teams in Huelva, Sevilla, Córdoba and Cádiz.
Officers saw a man wearing the official tracksuit for AD Ceuta on board a ship heading from the city to mainland Spain, but found he was not one of the team, nor its staff.
And on checking his national ID card, they found he was not who he claimed to be, nor was he a Spanish citizen.
The man in question claimed a member of the club had sold him the ID card for €1,000.
Police traced the only member of the team who was not wearing the official strip and arrested him along with another woman who was said to be in charge of keeping the illegal migrant under wraps at her home before he was helped on board the ferry.
A third person who had been accompanying the migrant was also arrested.
The three taken into custody, a woman aged 32 and two men aged 23 and 34, were all born in Ceuta and had Spanish passports, and the immigrant was Moroccan and aged 19.
Ismael M., 23, is a player with AD Ceuta and issued a statement before the press saying he 'accepted his responsibility' for the situation and wanted to clear the club's name.
Revealing he had been suspended from the team, Ismael said his 'error' was 'not telling the club he had a problem' because he 'got scared'.
He added that he 'would die for his team' and that he 'thanked' them for their support.
Chairman of AD Ceuta Luhay Hamido says the issue would be resolved in-house and the club would not give any further comment, other than to say Ismael had been 'suspended, not fired'.
It is thought the trio involved may have pulled the same stunt on more than one occasion.
The photograph shows the AD Ceuta team over the 2009-2010 season.