Nigeria grabs age cheats by the wrists
The decision by Nigeria to test their under-17 players to eliminate age cheats is the first step in ridding African soccer of a long-standing blight.
Nigeria Football Federation president Sani Lulu Abdallah has said this week his organisation will take the unprecedented step of measuring the bone density of players by use of an MRI scan, usually done around the wrist area, to approximate whether they are roughly the right age or not.
They will start before Nigeria put an under-17 side together for their hosting of the world championships later this year.
It has long been suspected that past sides (and Nigeria have won three World under-17 Championships) have had age cheats but Nigeria is among the first associations to have shown any willingness to try to tackle the issue.
There have been past admissions of cheating, almost all of them long after the fact, while some teams have been caught trying to change the date of birth of players, who had been previously registered for other competitions.
Similar scans to those proposed by Nigeria have not been implemented because they are not 100 percent accurate. But FIFA’s own findings have attached a 90 percent credibility to the tests…certainly much more credibility than the World Junior Championship will enjoy if age cheats go unchecked.
PHOTO: FIFA president Sepp Blatter, keen to root out age cheats, in Seoul Sept. 9, 2007. Blatter visited Seoul to watch the final between Spain and Nigeria at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak