Age Cheating Scandals: A growing menace in the game of football in Africa

One thing that has recently become a big problem to the beauty of the game of football in Africa is the continuous age cheating scandals done in complacence with the administration of the team in question or the football technicians at the helm of the squads. The exponential numbers of the age fraud cases keep increasing in Africa for sure due to the porous archiving systems and the fact that registration process is not automatic nor obligatory, this laxity gives room and facilitates these fraudulent acts which are not doable in countries with good digital registration systems.

Some athletes even go to an extend of changing their names and dates of birth just to suit their selfish interest. This unprecedented activities go against the rules of football as instituted by the world football governing body, FIFA.

Football is categorized and the criteria used is player’s age. A player over 17 can not take part in a competition reserved for the U-17 category, same with other categories; be it U-18, U-19, U-20 U-23 and what have you.

This surely explains why the Cameroon Football Federation recently lunched a complaint to the Confederations of African Football, CAF, to annul the return leg qualifier match fielded at the Yaounde Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. In the complaint FECAFOOT noted that an overaged Gabonese player was fielded for the U-23 AFCON match, an abuse to fair play.

In 2019 the African federation, CAF found Guinea had fabricated the age of two players, Aboubacar Conte and Ahmed Tidiane Keita for the U-17 Cup of Nations and in response, Guinea were kicked out the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup qualifiers

Chad on her part became the latest African country caught up in the age cheating scandal after they were disqualified from the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Accordingly, teams are supposed to notify or file in a complaint before and not during or after match. Any team reserves the right to lodge a complaint if it identifies age fraud in the opponents’ camp, and as per the regulation in force, if a team complaints, with evidence, the appeals and ethics or disciplinary committee of CAF is obliged to look into the matter.

Should in case, the CAF examining body discover cases of age fraud in the file, the protagonist will be subjected to a fine while some sanctions will be meted depending on the nature of the foul play by the victim in question.

To fix this, the squads are subjected to Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI] scans to ensure nobody is over-age. The machine determines the skeletal maturity of a person and if the age given is fake, the result will be an unmatched.

FIFA on her part also introduced the FIFA Connect, an online player licensing software which checks double identity. All member associations use this system to register players. Once a player’s information is entered, it is difficult to enter similar information with a new age or modified features.

Note be taken, age fraud subdues fair play kills the beauty of the game due to an unequal play target. More mature players use their developed abilities to outshine under aged players. A team with older elements imposes a fear factor already on the opponent and increases her chances to win at the detriment of her opponent.

Comparatively, these age cheating cases are rampant in Africa because it is difficult to sign for a professional club in the western world if the player is above 20 years of age. This is the reason why football talents are scouted at very early ages and harnessed through well structured programmes out of Africa.

Unfortunately, African countries do not have well developed, structured football programmes and academies to ensure evolution through different youth categories right to the top.

Many players who are caught in this age trap jump in to the age cheating phenomenon maybe with different names or dates of birth to be able to fit and catch-up with the juicy opportunities as they present themselves.

Benly Anchunda

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