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


It has been a problem for ages but Cameroonian footballer Samuel Eto’o seems determined to eradicate it.

In the year On January 15, 2010, Cameroon completed their qualification for the 2023 African Under-17 Cup with a 2-0 win over Congo Republic. event.

The reason is that 21 players out of the 30-man team failed the age eligibility test to determine the age of the bones by MRI examination and were expelled from the competition and expelled from the team, according to BBC Sport.

To make matters worse, out of the 11 players included in the squad, 11 substitutes failed the tests and were too old to participate in the qualifiers.

The expulsion of those players follows the decision of the Cameroon Football Association (FECAFOOT) President Eto’o to test the players before the tournament.

Cameroonian journalist Giovanni Waneh told CNN Sports that “these players are based on football and most of them come from poor families and backgrounds”, explaining why the players involved tried to falsify their ages.

They want to reduce their age so they can play longer and earn more money.

Issues surrounding age verification are not new to the world of football.

In the year Sir Alf Ramsey, the coach who led England to their only World Cup in 1966, changed his birth date. According to the Morning Star, he was to get a professional contract as a player after World War II.

The Brazilian Carlos Alberto He was 25 when he won the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship against Brazil.

According to ESPN, the player admitted to losing weight in a television interview, saying, “I had a chance to make a living…I was hungry.”

England's greatest coach, Sir Alf Ramsey, has said that he is two years younger than him.

However, the issue of player age is particularly prevalent in certain countries such as Cameroon and its neighbours.

Famous ex-Newcastle United, now Marseille and Democratic Republic of the Congo defender, Chancel Mbemba, was suspected by world governing body FIFA of having four different birthdays.

In an interview with the Mirror newspaper, he said that he had a bone scan to confirm the accuracy of his age, and finally he was born on the day that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee said he would be born.

Ghana and Nigeria, who have won seven FIFA Under-17 World Cups between them, have taken the age of their trophy-winning squads into account.

Some observers question the teams’ success at youth level, but it has not been replicated at the highest level of international football.

“I’m sorry to say that we’ve got coaches who try to play on the stage instead of thinking about the U-17 or U-19 as a development team,” head of competitions Gomezgani Zazakaka and Malawi Federation Communications told CNN Sport.

“I mean, we were the stars of the U-17 World Cups. But what happens after that? How do we translate our success at U-17 to the national team? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves as Africa,” Zakazaka added.

Ivorian journalist Mamadou Gaye told CNN Sport: “I would say it would be fair for Africa to return those trophies to FIFA.” [the seven U-17 titles won by Nigeria and Ghana]Because it is clear and obvious that he was defeated by fraud.

Africa’s love affair with football is no secret.

At Qatar 2022, Morocco and Tunisia fans made every game feel like they were in Casablanca or Tunis. Fans from Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal, despite outnumbering them in every match, brought a color and noise to the tournament that was unmatched by almost any other nation.

However, unlike their European and South American rivals, most African countries do not have an efficient pipeline and organizational structure to develop all the young players vying to become the next Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah.

A sport often suited to its meritocratic values ​​is often a matter of luck in Africa, where players must take chances few and far between if they want to carve out a professional career.

This lack of opportunity, combined with a lack of social mobility, has led many young children and their families to believe that football could be their ticket out of poverty.

That desperation and lack of opportunity is an exploitative field by coaches, managers, agents and even parents who want to cash in on a child’s talent.

In a country like Cameroon where the domestic football profession does not provide a reliable source of income, Ethiopia is trying to change that by introducing a minimum wage for players playing in the domestic league.

“[To name] I can only point to two financially stable clubs in Cameroon at the moment,” Wanneh explained, explaining that most of the country’s clubs do not have regular salary guarantees for players.

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

With clubs in Europe looking for future stars at a young age, with a lack of domestic opportunities and a shrinking window to land lucrative contracts, there is a desire to keep players young, especially young – and therefore age-controlled. They look more attractive to national teams and clubs.

Meanwhile, managers are faced with problematic record-keeping – not just in football but in wider society – which Zazakaka says he has experience with in his country.

Like Cameroon, Malawi recently conducted tests on its own players before the qualifiers and kicked some of them out of the squad, according to Times Group Malawi.

“It’s a challenge at the moment because in this part of Africa it’s a manual process using registration and registration,” Zakazaka told CNN Sports.

“Another concern is the lack of birth certificates. You have many children who play soccer. Those without a birth certificate.

While countries such as Cameroon and Malawi have begun to accept digital birth certificates, football managers in Africa still face challenges in verifying a player’s date of birth.

The continent’s football governing body – the Confederation of African Football (CAF) – has adopted an MRI scan to confirm the age of players.

An MRI scans the player’s wrist, examining the growth plate before grading it from one to six.

The sixth stage means that the player’s growth plate is fully integrated with the bone, usually around the age of 18 or 19.

However, Thulani Ngwenya, who is a member of CAF’s medical committee and part of the MRI scan implementation at CAF, explained that this MRI technique is not a way to assess a person’s actual age.

“It’s not the age decision and the protocol, but the eligibility protocol, which are two different things,” Ngwenya told CNN Sports.

“At the age of 18 and at the age of 19, they will merge, but it is not set in stone to see.”

Cuffe admitted that players over the age of 17 could still qualify to play. Because wrist growth plate development is different for women, the scan only works for men.

However, this MRI application works as a method to verify the eligibility of the players and provide an accurate line-up that can be implemented.

And it’s enforceable. If a player fails the CAF eligibility test in a tournament, the entire team will be disqualified.

Cameroon became the first African nation to beat Brazil in the World Cup last year.

Chad had to be eliminated from the qualifiers hosted by Cameroon at the same time and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had to pull out of the tournament after their players were unable to find replacements in time after they collapsed in a test at home.

Cameroon tested their players ahead of the qualifiers and were able to select the non-qualifiers and the qualifiers.

Thanks to Chad’s disqualification and DRC’s exit due to suspended players, Cameroon had to advance to the Under-17 AFCON with wins over Central African Republic and Congo Republic.

“It sends a very strong message to the youth structures in Cameroon for Cameroon to come out in public,” says Zakazaka.

“It is not a normal job to select players who are judged based on the documents they bring.”

Journalist Gay agrees: “When we put it out in the open, it will be a lesson for everyone. And it’s a clear and strong message to all agents, to all parents, to everyone involved in the game. Do not try to deceive. If you try to cheat, we will not only take you out, we will ban you.

While countries such as Cameroon continue to digitize birth records, they can use FIFA Connect, a database where federations register players with a unique FIFA ID code that acts as a digital passport.

While there is no sure-fire way to verify a player’s age at registration, once they are in the FIFA Connect system, their data cannot be tampered with, giving federations like Cameroon and Malawi the ability to track everything. A player in their environment.

The adoption of FIFA Connect has been hailed as the “age cheat” era, coupled with the continent’s growing use of digital record-keeping and federation presidents such as Eto’o.

“The law stands until we as federations put structures in place to ensure that there is nothing to do with fraud in the first place,” Zakazaka said.

“[But] I mean, moving forward these days, there is light at the end of the tunnel. ”


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