Federation of European Football Associations (Uefa) has sponsored a rigorous age-screening process for all Under-17 national team players ahead of the Cosafa Cup in Mauritius from July 19 to 29.
Players from all participating teams will line up for the exercise, a week before the tournament kicks off, according to Cosafa deputy chief executive officer (CEO) Suzgo Nyirenda.
He said Uefa has pumped in funds to enable the regional body carry out the scientific screening process which includes the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to curb age fraud.
“It’s a project aimed at eradicating age-cheating which has been one of the biggest problems facing age bracket tournaments. Uefa is not only funding the screening process. It will also send its doctors who will carry out the process,” he said.
Nyirenda has since warned participating teams to ensure they screen their players beforehand.
“This is a high technology age screening process and I can assure you that no over-aged player will survive after this exercise. My warning is that the teams should do their own MRI scan before coming otherwise, they risk a fine and a ban if they travel with age cheaters,” said Nyirenda.
Malawi has had its share of age-cheating cases. In the latest incident, an Under-20 national team player’s real age was only discovered at his funeral where the church revealed that he was not 18 but 24 and fathered two children from two different mothers.
“We used all means possible to do a background check of the players. We went to school, their parents and their churches to check the players’ ages. We checked records on when they started playing football.
“There were cases when information from their [players’] parents was different from those given by schools. We are confident that players that we have picked were born after January 1 2002 and December 30 2004 as per rules and regulations,” he said.
But Kaputa said they had not done MRI scan for all the players due to lack of funds.
“This is a very expensive process. MRI scan for one player costs K250 000. We only randomly sampled three players to undergo the MRI scan and they all passed,” he said.
Malawi and Angola are in Group C alongside Swaziland and Zimbabwe while Group A has hosts Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia and Seychelles.
Defending champions Zambia are in Group B with Mozambique, Lesotho and South Africa.
Just like last year, three group winners will proceed to the semi-finals and will be joined by one best loser.
The tournament will be used as a zonal qualifier for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) to be held in Tanzania next year.
The continental champion will qualify for the Fifa Under-17 World Cup.
Malawi won bronze at the 2017 edition of the Under-17 Cosafa Cup.