The norm of age cheating in football appears to start from the bottom after nine players have been kicked out of the African Under-17 Championship in Morocco after wrist scans showed them to be over the age limit.
BBC reports that three players each from Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast and Nigeria have been banned from playing any further part in the competition.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was used to scan the wrist plate of players to accurately ascertain their true age. This innovation came into place after discovering that birth certificates are often either inaccurate or unavailable to ascertain the real age of these players.
The players to have been excluded are Congo’s Cherlevy-Diabala Carim, Hardy Binguila and Bermagin Kangou, Ivory Coast’s Dagou Britto, Abdul Diarrassouba and Siriki Dembele, and Nigeria’s Onyinye Ndidi, Ibrhaim Abdullahi and Emmanuiel Asadu. Thankfully, none of the countries’ was thrown out of the competition but their squads have been reduced to 18 players without replacement.
The news will further cements African footballers as age cheating victims following claims by FK Partizan Belgrade Chief Zarko Zecevic a fortnight ago that former Nigeria defender Taribo West lied about his age when he joined Partizan.
“He joined us saying he was 28. We only later found out he was 40, but he was still playing well so I don’t regret having him on the team,”’ Zecevic said.
It should be noted that in 2010, the Uganda U-17 team was disqualified by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) from the U-17 Championships qualifiers after fielding an over age player.
Football’s world governing body, Fifa, first began researching the use of MRI technology in 2003 but only started to conduct tests at the U-19 World Cup in Nigeria.
Results from U-17 World Cups in 2003, 2005 and 2007 revealed that up to 35% of players were over-age.