Cameroon Under-17s football group: 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 match 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 checks following MRI scans to find out bone age after which ejected from the group, in keeping with BBC Sport.

To make issues worse, 11 of the replacements drafted into the squad additionally failed checks and were too outdated to play within the qualifiers.

The ejection of these players adopted Cameroon Football Association (FECAFOOT) President Eto’o’s determination 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 wish to scale back their ages to allow them to get to play for longer intervals and make more cash.”

Issues round age-verification will not be 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 beginning. According to the Morning Star, it was in order that he might get knowledgeable 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 match for players below the age of 20.

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

However, the difficulty of a participant’s age stays significantly prevalent in sure international locations 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 checks 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 now we have received coaches attempting to play for the rostrum as a substitute of serious about the entire thought 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 now we have been stars of U-17, World Cups. But what occurs after that? How can we take our success on the U-17 as much as the nationwide group? 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 via cheating.”

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

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

However, in contrast to rival international locations in Europe and South America, nearly all of African nations would not have the expertise pipelines and organizational construction to develop all these children vying to turn into the following Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah.

A sport often idealized for its meritocratic values ​​usually turns into a matter of luck in Africa, the place players should take probabilities which might be few and much between if they’re to carve out knowledgeable profession.

This lack of alternative, coupled with an absence of social mobility, implies that many younger kids and their households imagine soccer is usually 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 trying to money in on a baby’s expertise.

It’s even tougher in a rustic like Cameroon, the place a profession in home soccer would not ship a dependable supply of revenue, one thing Eto’o is attempting to vary by introducing a minimal wage for players enjoying in home leagues.

“[To name] financially secure golf equipment in Cameroon at this cut-off date, I might level out simply two,” says Wanneh, who explains that the majority golf equipment within the nation haven’t any assure of an everyday wage for players.

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

With the dearth 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 govern a participant’s age – notably to make them youthful – and thus seem extra enticing to the nationwide group and golf equipment.

Meanwhile directors are confronted by problematic report holding – not simply in soccer but in addition in wider society – in keeping with Zakazaka, who says he has expertise with this situation in his dwelling nation.

Like Cameroon, Malawi just lately carried out checks 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 so far as a result of now we have been utilizing a guide technique of registering and report holding on this a part of Africa,” Zakazaka advised CNN Sports.

“Another vital situation has been the difficulty of lack of beginning certificates. You have gotten a number of children which might be enjoying in football who haven’t got beginning certificates.”

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

As a manner 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, inspecting the expansion plate earlier than grading it from one to 6.

Grade six means a participant’s development 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 just isn’t an evaluation of somebody’s actual age.

“It just isn’t an age willpower 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’s not forged in stone to see.”

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

Nevertheless, this MRI software does perform 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 take a look at at a contest, your complete group 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 take a look at, and the DRC needed to pull out of the match as a result of it couldn’t discover replacements in time after players failed its personal checks at dwelling BBC Sport reported earlier this month.


By testing its players properly forward of qualifying, Cameroon was in a position to exchange 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 come back out within the open, it should ship a really robust message to the youth constructions in Cameroon,” says Zakazaka.

“It’s not enterprise as common whereby you simply choose players who might be judged in keeping 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 all people. And it is a clear and robust message to all of the brokers, to all of the mother and father, to everybody concerned within the recreation. 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 international locations like Cameroon proceed to digitize beginning information they’re additionally in a position to make use of FIFA Connect, a database the place federations can register players with a novel FIFA ID code, which acts as a digital passport.

While there isn’t 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 unattainable to tamper with their information, giving federations like Cameroon and Malawi the flexibility to maintain monitor of each players of their ecosystems.

The adoption of FIFA Connect, coupled with a rising adoption of digital report 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 in so far as we’re setting up constructions that make sure that there’s nothing to do with cheating within the first place,” says Zakazaka.

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

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