DR Congo leaves U-17 AFCON after age verification

Cameroon is hosting Afcon’s U-17 qualifiers and the president of the country’s football association, Samuel Eto’o, has vowed to crack down on age cheating

The DRC were forced to withdraw from a regional qualifier for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after 25 out of 40 players failed mandatory age tests.

It is the latest age cheating scandal to plague the Central African Football Associations (UNIFFAC) qualifiers after 32 players from host nation Cameroon failed age tests ordered by Fecafoot national association president Samuel Eto’o.

In a race against time, BBC Sport Africa in Cameroon have found 30 substitutes who have passed all the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests in Douala.

However, as the Indomitable Lions were due to play their opening game in Limbe against DR Congo, they are now unable to start the tournament on January 12 as planned.

Read Also: Afcon 2023: Ivory Coast signs agreement to host Nations Cup

A statement from the Congolese Football Federation (Fecofa) said he was forced to withdraw after “only 15 were eligible and 25 of the 40 players submitted for MRI tests failed”.

However, of the 15 players who passed the age test, the statement also noted that “only five completed the necessary administrative formalities” that would have allowed them to travel to Cameroon.

Four countries – Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Chad and Central African Republic – will now take part in the qualifying competition, with UNIFFAC rescheduling matches between 12-24 January.

Two teams reach the finals of the U17 Nations Cup in Algeria in April.

“It’s an organizational nightmare because we have to quickly come up with a new format that includes four nations instead of the original five,” a UNIFFAC representative told BBC Sport Africa.

“We are pleased that after the MRI scans all four nations now have a team.”

The Confederation of African Football (Caf), which enforces the MRI age scans, has been asked for comment.
The fight against old age is cheating

Much of Africa’s international success at youth tournaments has been marred by allegations of using aging players.

Fifa banned Nigeria from all international games for two years after discovering that the dates of birth of three of their players at the 1988 Olympics differed from those used by the same players at previous tournaments.

In 2003, Kenya’s national under-17 team was disbanded by the government after some players confessed to age cheating.

Seven months ago, Ghana was banned from the next two editions of the Women’s U-17 World Cup qualifiers and fined $100,000 after being found guilty.

Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia and Congo-Brazzaville were also all disqualified from major tournaments, while Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guinea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Uganda were notable offenders.

Cameroonian legend Eto’o pledged to take action to combat the longstanding problem when he was elected Fecafoot’s president in December 2021.

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