We perfect the art of age cheat­ing

African Independent - - SPORT - THOMAS

AFORTNIGHT AGO, African foot­ball lead­ers and stake­hold­ers gath­ered in Moroc­can cap­i­tal Ra­bat to map out the fu­ture of the game on the con­ti­nent.

There were far-reach­ing de­ci­sions made to im­prove the game, and even though a few pro­pos­als were ridicu­lous, the ma­jor­ity of the de­ci­sions, it is hoped, will ad­vance the progress of the game.

But a crit­i­cal as­pect of the game was ne­glected – age cheat­ing. No­body both­ered to ad­dress this thorny is­sue which if not stamped out, could be the down­fall of the African game.

We are in­formed that play­ers are sub­jected to the vaunted MRI scan which uses pow­er­ful mag­netic and ra­dio waves to cre­ate pic­tures that can de­tect through the bones if a player is above 17.

I have al­ways won­dered why some play­ers from par­tic­u­larly west Africa looked sus­pi­ciously older and we were in­formed that they had passed the MRI scan and by def­i­ni­tion, were within the al­lo­cated age.

A South African doc­tor con­firmed how­ever, that sev­eral of their col­leagues ad­mit­ted dur­ing a CAF med­i­cal sem­i­nar in Cairo last year that the MRI scan was not re­li­able and re­sults could not be con­sid­ered con­clu­sive.

He said they were tasked with con­duct­ing fur­ther tests and re­search to try to find a fool­proof way of de­ter­min­ing the ages of play­ers in Africa.

Sto­ries of age ma­nip­u­la­tion in youth tour­na­ments abound in Africa, and last year Congo were ex­pelled from the U-17 Afcon tour­na­ment af­ter they were dis­cov­ered to have fielded a 22-year old in their elim­i­na­tion of Tan­za­nia.

Last year, Zam­bia were thrown out of the Cosafa U-17 tour­na­ment in Mau­ri­tius

French news­pa­pers Le Parisien and Nice Matin were quick to an­nounce that Monaco had de­nied the re­port, but in the cloak-and-dag­ger cli­mate of ru­mour and in­nu­endo that char­ac­terises foot­ball’s trans­fer oper­a­tions, the lat­est twist re­vived spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing the fu­ture of Europe’s most el­i­gi­ble young star.

Only the ru­mour mill sur­round­ing Ney­mar and the mas­sive sums in­volved have come close to eclips­ing the buzz gen­er­ated by Mbappe in re­cent weeks. af­ter they fielded Nick Mulilo and Ben­jamin Phiri, who, de­spite pro­duc­ing MRI re­sults in­di­cat­ing they were within the age cat­e­gory, were in fact over 20.

This week, Zim­babwe coach Moses Chunga ques­tioned the ages of some of their op­po­nents. He claimed the Zam­bian and Malaw­ian lads couldn’t be 15 or 16 as their phys­i­cal devel­op­ment de­fied this.

Con­tro­versy con­tin­ued to swirl around Zam­bia and a me­dia re­port said that one Muma Mumba was ac­tu­ally born on June 2, 1997 and ac­tu­ally play for a pro­fes­sional club in Zam­bia.

Poor Cosafa CEO Sue Destombes tried to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter but the said player’s birth cer­tifi­cate and MRI re­sults in­di­cated he was el­i­gi­ble.

Ney­mar, Barcelona’s 25-year-old Brazil­ian su­per­star, is at the cen­tre of fren­zied spec­u­la­tion link­ing him to Paris Saint-Ger­main for a world record €222 mil­lion, the price of his buy­out clause.

The like­li­hood of that deal looks to have re­ceded in the past few days as the Mbappe move took cen­tre stage. And if it goes through, Real will have com­pleted a ma­jor coup by snatch­ing one of the most cov­eted young play­ers in foot­ball from un­der the noses of

top Euro­pean clubs in­clud­ing PSG and Premier League giants in­clud­ing Man­ches­ter City.

Real are look­ing to fill the void left by Al­varo Mo­rata, who joined Chelsea last Fri­day in a deal re­ported to be worth up to €80 mil­lion.

Madrid coach Zine­dine Zi­dane, asked about Mbappe last week, said Real were short of one at­tacker af­ter Mo­rata’s de­par­ture but chose his words care­fully. “I am not say­ing we are lack­ing a cen­tre-for­ward but we are

PIC­TURE: EPA

CHAOS: In­jured vic­tims of a stam­pede at Demba Diop Sta­dium in Dakar, Sene­gal, on July 15, which killed eight peo­ple when a wall col­lapsed af­ter fight­ing started be­tween fans.

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