Age cheating is a common practice in African football to an extent that players in amateur leagues are known to have two ages.

Age fabrication also allows an older player to enter youth competitions. FIFA says that “over-age players have been wrongly entered into various youth competitions, often benefiting from unfair advantage due to their greater physical maturity compared to players of the proper age.

Football administrators believe age cheating took a leap after the commercialization of the game in Africa. Clubs and footballers’ agents have been accused of encouraging players alter their ages so that it becomes less hard to obtain contracts with European clubs looking out for young talents.

But age cheating is slowly killing African football. Egyptian Football Association media officer Medhat Shalaby likens age fraud to cancer in African football. Medhat argues that age fraud is a counterproductive practice, which he is right. Age cheating is destroying football development and growth in Africa. It makes talents poaching tournaments useless because some players are barred from playing because they are too old. What is the point of a 17-year-old competing in a tournament where the opposing team has players’ way over that age group? In recent years, age fraud has manifested itself in CAF’s junior tournaments.

The mandatory use of Magnetic Response Imaging {MRI} was introduced by FIFA in 2009 for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup to help ascertain whether players are over age or not. MRI is considered to be 99% until the age of 17, after which it becomes harder for.

Below are some of the African countries found guilty of age cheating.

Benin

In 2018 Benin’s U17’s team was disqualified from the WAFU-B U17after half of their players failed the test. Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire had one player each sent home.

Kenya

In August 2018 three Kenyan players were disqualified from the CECAFA U17 tournament in Tanzania after they failed MRI test.

Also in 2003, Kenya’s U17 national team were dissolved by the Kenyan Government after some players revealed themselves to be over 18 years of age.

Nigeria

In 1989 Nigeria’s youth national teams were banned by FIFA for fielding over-age players in FIFA-organised youth tournament. The birth dates of three players at the 1988 Olympics were different than the ones used by those players at previous tournaments. The resulting ban lasted for two years and Nigeria was also stripped of its right to host the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship.

Zambia

Zambia were disqualified from the 2016 COSAFA Under-17 Championships in Mauritius having been found to have fielded two over-age players for the tournament.

Ghana

Ghana was disqualified from the 2015 Under-17 AFCON for fielding an over-age player.

The issue blew up when Cameroon filed a protest against seven {7} players of the Ghana U-17 national team on 13th September 2014 after the first leg match of the third round of the qualifier, which Ghana won 2-1.

Out of the seven {7} players, the CAF Medical Committee made adverse findings against two players.

Guinea

In May 2019, Guinea’s U-17 national team were found guilty by CAF for age fabrication of two players, Aboubacar Conte and Ahmed Tidiane Keita, at the 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations. Hence, they lost their place in the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Cameroon

In 2016, Fourteen Cameroonian footballers suspected of having reduced their ages to participate in the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations {AFCON} were suspended by the country’s federation {Fecafoot}.

South Africa

South African journalist Thomas Kwenaite uncovered several “age-cheats’ representing South Africa who participated in an Under-15 tournament hosted in France. The captain of that side was 24-year-old University student from Port Elizabeth.

After revealing the age of the player, the player’s father took Kwenaite to the South African press ombudsman for “slander” before withdrawing his complaint after it was that school records show that the player would have started the school aged 2 years old. Kwenaite also claims that he was told that he was “unpatriotic” for reporting the story.

Zimbabwe, Comoros, Botswana, ESwatini

In 2020, The Confederation of African Football {CAF} Youth Competitions Committee disqualified Zimbabwe, Comoros, Botswana and ESwatini teams from the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship for fielding over-age players.