Chad has become the latest African country caught up in the age cheating scandal after they were disqualified from the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Their squad was subjected to Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI] scans to ensure nobody was over-age.
But they were disqualified on the eve of the qualifiers getting underway, reportedly because of just one case.
Chad has become the latest nation caught up in an age cheating scandal at under-17 level
It comes after Cameroon, which is hosting the matches, had to remove 32 players from their squad after federation president Samuel Eto’o demanded the MRI scans.
Earlier this week, DR Congo also had to withdraw after 25 of 40 players they’d selected were found to be overage, leading to their withdrawal.
The withdrawal of Chad leaves only Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville and Central African Republic left to play the qualifiers, which run until January 24.
Chad were disqualified on the eve of their first Under-17 AFCON qualifying match
Congo-Brazzaville were awarded a walkover after their game with Chad was called off, while Cameroon beat Central African Republic 4-0 in their first game.
Two teams are due to progress to the finals in Algeria in April.
BSN Sports reported that seven members of the Chad squad initially failed the MRI tests with some uncertainty over Ousmane Diallo, who they believed had been deemed eligible.
However, Chad were then informed of their disqualification the night before they had been due to kick-off the qualifiers by playing Congo-Brazzaville.
The country’s football federation vice-president Nair Abakar said: ‘CAF [the African federation] announced a disqualification at 10.23pm, something that is difficult to digest.
‘If you put yourself in our place, you will see how difficult it is to accept this decision.’
Democratic Republic of Congo withdrew from the regional qualifiers earlier this week.
A statement from the Congolese football federation (FECOFA) said they were forced to withdraw after ‘only 15 were eligible and 25 failed of the 40 players submitted for MRI testing.’
DR Congo have withdrawn from the U17 African Cup of Nations after 25 players failed age tests
However, of the 15 players who passed the age test, the statement also revealed that ‘only five managed to complete the necessary administrative formalities’ that would have allowed them to travel to Cameroon.
BBC Sport Africa reported that Cameroon found 30 replacement players in a race against time to take part in the qualifiers for the U17 AFCON.
Unlike those who failed, the 30 players have all passed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests in Douala.
The tests are used to determine a player’s age by scanning their wrists and measuring bone growth.
Cameroon’s governing body, Fecafoot revealed in a statement that Eto’o had given ‘strict instructions’ for the tests to take place ‘in order to put an end to the tampering with civil status records which have, in the past, tarnished the image of Cameroon football.’
Cameroon were forced to find 30 players after 32 also failed MRI tests which had been ordered by the country’s president of their football association Samuel Eto’o
It has proved to be an embarrassing episode for the Cameroon football federation Fecafoot
They added: ‘Fecafoot urges all actors, in particular educators, to ensure that the ages by category are respected.’
Age fraud has been a long-running concern for African football, with many of their international successes at junior level clouded by allegations of over-age players.
Accusations have regularly been made but there has seemingly been little attempt to investigate it from the authorities.
Cameroon have twice been African champions at Under-17 level and Fecafoot previously blocked 14 players from competing in the Under-17 AFCON tournament in 2017 after failing MRI tests, introduced by FIFA at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup.
In the summer, Cameroon’s Football Federation summoned 44 players from eight different clubs for a hearing into alleged age or identity cheating, highlighting their attempts to deal with the problem.
After the first 21 out of the 32 players failed tests, Fecafoot outlined their nation’s position following the failed tests.
Age or identity fraud continues to be a major source of concern for African football as a whole
They had said: ‘The Cameroonian Football Federation informs public opinion that as part of the preparations for the UNIFFAC Limbe 2023 tournament, qualifying for the next African U17 Nations Championship, 21 players out of the 30 currently on training have failed at the outcome of the MRI tests.
‘They were immediately removed from the group. Steps were immediately taken for their replacement.
‘This action is the result of strict instructions given by the President of FECAFOOT acting under the mandate of the COMEX, in order to put an end to the tampering with civil status records which have, in the past, tarnished the image of the apex body of the Cameroon football.
‘FECAFOOT urges all actors, in particular educators, to ensure that the ages by category are respected.’
Football age cheats timeline
1988 – Mexico banned from 1990 World Cup after their Under-20 team knowingly fielded several over-age players.
1989 – Nigeria’s youth sides banned by FIFA for two years for fielding over-age players. The birth dates of three players at the 1988 Olympics were different to ones used by those players at previous tournaments.
2003 – Kenya’s Under-17 team disbanded by the national government after some players revealed they were over 18.
2008 – The Asian Football Confederation kicked out North Korea, Tajikistan and Iraq after they qualified for the Under-16 Championship for fielding over-age players. Yemen were ejected from the tournament itself for the same offence.
2009 – MRI scans introduced by FIFA at the Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria. 15 players in the hosts’ squad had to be dropped.
2010 – Senegal’s football federation withdrew Diawandou Diagne, Herve Diedhiou and Samba Diallo from their Under-17 team after MRI scans revealed they were over-age.
2010 – Eight players banned from the Asian Under-16 Championship.
2017 – Cameroon block 14 players from going to the Under-17 AFCON in Gabon after failed age tests.
2019 – African federation CAF found Guinea had fabricated the age of two players, Aboubacar Conte and Ahmed Tidiane Keita at the 2019 Africa Under-17 Cup of Nations. Guinea were kicked out the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.