Cameroon Under-17s football staff: Why 32 players were ejected for age cheating


It’s been an issue for the ages however Cameroonian soccer nice Samuel Eto’o seems decided to stamp it out.

Cameroon sealed its qualification for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations’ Under-17s event with a 2-0 win in opposition to the Republic of Congo 2-0 on January 15, however the squad which received that match was unrecognizable from the one initially chosen for the occasion.

That’s as a result of 21 players of the 30-man unique group were disqualified for failing age eligibility assessments following MRI scans to find out bone age after which ejected from the staff, in accordance with BBC Sport.

To make issues worse, 11 of the replacements drafted into the squad additionally failed assessments and were too previous to play within the qualifiers.

The ejection of these players adopted Cameroon Football Association (FECAFOOT) President Eto’o’s resolution to check players forward of the competitors.

“These players depend on football and most of them come from poor households and backgrounds,” Cameroonian journalist Giovanni Wanneh advised CNN Sports, explaining why the players concerned would have tried to falsify their ages.

“They need to cut back their ages to allow them to get to play for longer intervals and make more cash.”

Issues round age-verification aren’t new to the football world.

Sir Alf Ramsey, the supervisor who led England to its solitary World Cup title in 1966, modified his date of delivery. According to the Morning Star, it was in order that he might get an expert contract as a participant after World War II.

Brazilian Carlos Alberto was 25 when he received the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship with Brazil, a event for players below the age of 20.

According to ESPN, the participant admitted in a tv interview that he had lowered his age as a result of, “It was an opportunity for me to make a residing … I used to be hungry.”

However, the problem of a participant’s age stays significantly prevalent in sure nations like Cameroon and its neighbors.

Famously, former Newcastle United and present Marseille and DRC defender Chancel Mbemba was probed by world governing physique FIFA for allegedly having 4 completely different birthdays.

In an interview with The Mirror he claimed to take bone assessments to confirm his personal age and was ultimately dominated to be born on the day that he claimed by FIFA’s disciplinary committee.

Ghana and Nigeria, who’ve seven FIFA Under-17 World Cup titles between them, have come below scrutiny for the ages of their cup profitable groups.

Some observers query the success that the groups have loved at a youth degree, however has not been replicated at worldwide soccer’s senior degree.

“I’m sorry to say this up to now we have now obtained coaches attempting to play for the rostrum as an alternative of fascinated by the entire concept of ​​having a U-17 or U-19 as a developmental squad,” Gomezgani Zakazaka, head of competitions and communications on the Malawi Federation, advised CNN Sport.

“I imply we have now been stars of U-17, World Cups. But what occurs after that? How will we take our success on the U-17 as much as the nationwide staff? These are questions that we needs to be asking ourselves as Africa,” added Zakazaka.

Ivorian journalist Mamadou Gaye goes additional, telling CNN Sports: “I’d even say that it could be honest sufficient for Africa to return all these trophies to FIFA [the seven U-17 titles won by Nigeria and Ghana]as a result of it is apparent and really clear that it was received by cheating.”

Africa’s love affair with soccer is not any secret.

At Qatar 2022, followers from Morocco and Tunisia made each sport really feel prefer it was in Casablanca or Tunis. Fans from Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal, though outnumbered at each match, additionally introduced a colour and noise unmatched by virtually every other nation on the event.

However, not like rival nations in Europe and South America, nearly all of African nations do not need the expertise pipelines and organizational construction to develop all these children who need to turn out to be the following Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah.

A sport normally idealized for its meritocratic values ​​typically turns into a matter of luck in Africa, the place players should take possibilities which are few and much between if they’re to carve out an expert profession.

This lack of alternative, coupled with a scarcity of social mobility, implies that many younger kids and their households consider soccer generally is a ticket out of poverty.

That desperation and lack of alternative is a breeding floor for players to be taken benefit of, be it by coaches, directors, brokers, and even mother and father seeking to money in on a baby’s expertise.

It’s even tougher in a rustic like Cameroon, the place a profession in home soccer doesn’t ship a dependable supply of earnings, one thing Eto’o is attempting to alter by introducing a minimal wage for players taking part in in home leagues.

“[To name] financially secure golf equipment in Cameroon at this time limit, I might level out simply two,” says Wanneh, who explains that almost all golf equipment within the nation haven’t any assure of a daily wage for players.

Samuel Eto'o is trying to modernize Cameroonian club football, implementing a minimum wage for top division clubs.

With the shortage of alternatives at dwelling and the window for getting a transfer to extra profitable contracts narrowing as golf equipment in Europe are scouting potential future stars at more and more younger ages there’s a temptation to control a participant’s age – notably to make them youthful – and thus seem extra engaging to the nationwide staff and golf equipment.

Meanwhile, directors are confronted by problematic document holding – not simply in soccer but additionally in wider society – in accordance with Zakazaka, who says he has expertise with this difficulty in his dwelling nation.

Like Cameroon, Malawi lately carried out assessments by itself players forward of its qualifiers and needed to expel some from its squad, the Times Group Malawi reported.

“It’s nonetheless a problem to this point as a result of we have now been utilizing a guide technique of registration and document holding on this a part of Africa,” Zakazaka advised CNN Sports.

“Another essential difficulty has been the problem of lack of delivery certificates. You have gotten quite a lot of children which are taking part in in football who haven’t got delivery certificates.”

While nations like Cameroon and Malawi are beginning to undertake digital delivery certificates, football directors in Africa nonetheless face challenges to verify a participant’s delivery date.

As a method of verifying a participant’s age, the continent’s soccer governing physique – the Confederation of African Football (CAF) – has adopted using MRI scans.

The MRI scans a participant’s wrist, analyzing the expansion plate earlier than grading it from one to 6.

Grade six means a participant’s progress plate has fully fused to the bone, which usually occurs across the age of 18 or 19.

However, Thulani Ngwenya, who’s a member of the CAF medical committee and has been part of CAF’s implementation of MRI scans, defined that this MRI technique shouldn’t be an evaluation of somebody’s precise age.

“It shouldn’t be an age dedication and a protocol, however it’s an eligibility protocol, that are two various things,” Ngwenya advised CNN Sports.

“It fuses at age 18 and age 19, however it isn’t solid in stone to see.”

CAF acknowledges that it’s nonetheless attainable for players who’re over the age of 17 to go as eligible to play. The scan additionally solely works for boys because the wrist progress plate growth is completely different for ladies.

Nevertheless, this MRI software does operate as a strategy to confirm the eligibility of players and supply a definitive line that may be enforced.

And enforced it’s. If one participant fails CAF’s eligibility check at a contest, your complete staff is disqualified.

Cameroon became the first African nation to defeat Brazil at the World Cup last year.

Chad was disqualified for the qualifiers hosted in Cameroon due to a single failed check, and the DRC needed to pull out of the event as a result of it couldn’t discover replacements in time after players failed their very own assessments at dwelling BBC Sport reported earlier this month.


By testing its players nicely forward of qualifying, Cameroon was in a position to substitute those that were ineligible and select from a squad for the qualifiers.

Thanks to Chad’s disqualification and DRC pulling out due to disqualified players, Cameroon solely needed to beat the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo to qualify for the Under-17 AFCON, which it did comfortably.

“For Cameroon to return out within the open, it should ship a really sturdy message to the youth buildings in Cameroon,” says Zakazaka.

“It’s now not enterprise as normal whereby you simply decide players who shall be judged in accordance with the paperwork that they’ve introduced in.”

Journalist Gaye agrees: “When we put it out within the open, it should function a lesson for everyone. And it is a clear and powerful message to all of the brokers, to all of the mother and father, to everybody concerned within the sport. Do not attempt to cheat. If you attempt to cheat, not solely we are going to take you out, however we are going to ban you.”

While nations like Cameroon proceed to digitize delivery information they’re additionally ready to make use of FIFA Connect, a database the place federations can register players with a singular FIFA ID code, which acts as a digital passport.

While there is no such thing as a sure-fire mechanism for verifying a participant’s age on the level of registration, as soon as they’re within the FIFA Connect system, it’s unimaginable to tamper with their knowledge, giving federations like Cameroon and Malawi the power to maintain observe of each players of their ecosystems.

The adoption of FIFA Connect, coupled with a rising adoption of digital document holding on the continent and federation presidents like Eto’o means the times of “age cheating” look numbered.

“The invoice stops with us as federations so far as we’re putting in buildings that be certain that there’s nothing to do with cheating within the first place,” says Zakazaka.

“[But] I’d say that going ahead as of late, there may be mild on the finish of the tunnel.”


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